Send to

Choose Destination
Cereb Cortex. 2016 Feb;26(2):544-556. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu206. Epub 2014 Sep 23.

Brain Mechanisms of Social Threat Effects on Working Memory.

Author information

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of Colorado, Boulder, 345 UCB, Boulder, CO 80305, USA.


Social threat can have adverse effects on cognitive performance, but the brain mechanisms underlying its effects are poorly understood. We investigated the effects of social evaluative threat on working memory (WM), a core component of many important cognitive capabilities. Social threat impaired WM performance during an N-back task and produced widespread reductions in activation in lateral prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus (IPS), among other regions. In addition, activity in frontal and parietal regions predicted WM performance, and mediation analyses identified regions in the bilateral IPS that mediated the performance-impairing effects of social threat. Social threat also decreased connectivity between the IPS and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, while increasing connectivity between the IPS and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, a region strongly implicated in the generation of autonomic and emotional responses. Finally, cortisol response to the stressor did not mediate WM impairment but was rather associated with protective effects. These results provide a basis for understanding interactions between social and cognitive processes at a neural systems level.


executive function; fMRI; intraparietal sulcus; mediation; stress

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center