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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2019 May;161:169-174. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2019.04.010. Epub 2019 Apr 24.

Stress and prospective memory: What is the role of cortisol?

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; Swiss National Centre of Competences in Research LIVES-Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives, Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland. Electronic address: nicola.ballhausen@unige.ch.
2
Department of Psychology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; Swiss National Centre of Competences in Research LIVES-Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives, Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland.
3
Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Gerontology and Vulnerability, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland; Swiss National Centre of Competences in Research LIVES-Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives, Lausanne and Geneva, Switzerland; Department of Basic Neurosciences, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.

Abstract

Studies investigating effects of acute stress on Prospective Memory (PM) so far yielded heterogeneous findings. Although results were commonly attributed to stress-induced changes in cortisol, past research did not disentangle effects of cortisol from the effects of sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activation and cognitive reappraisal. The present study therefore aimed at investigating the mere effect of cortisol on PM tasks that differently involve prefrontal brain regions (nonfocal vs. focal PM tasks) via a placebo-controlled oral pharmacological intake of 10 mg hydrocortisone mimicking physiological responses to stress. Contrary to our prediction, enhanced levels of cortisol did not affect PM accuracy and monitoring costs, neither for the focal nor the nonfocal PM tasks. These results suggest that changes of cortisol levels do not underlie potential stress effects on PM. Further exploratory results revealed that PM performance was higher in the 3 pm than in the 1 pm placebo group. This means that PM performance, independently of effects of cortisol, seem to vary throughout the day.

KEYWORDS:

Circadian rhythm; Cortisol; Focality; Prospective memory; Stress

PMID:
31022446
DOI:
10.1016/j.nlm.2019.04.010

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