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Acute stress differentially affects spatial configuration learning in high and low cortisol-responding healthy adults.

Meyer T, Smeets T, Giesbrecht T, Quaedflieg CW, Merckelbach H - Eur J Psychotraumatol (2013)

Bottom Line: Acute stress did not impact SCCT learning overall, but opposing effects emerged for high versus low cortisol responders to the MAST.Learning scores following stress were reduced in low cortisol responders, while high cortisol-responding participants showed improved learning.The effects of stress on spatial configuration learning were moderated by the magnitude of endogenous cortisol secretion.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT

Background: Stress and stress hormones modulate memory formation in various ways that are relevant to our understanding of stress-related psychopathology, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Particular relevance is attributed to efficient memory formation sustained by the hippocampus and parahippocampus. This process is thought to reduce the occurrence of intrusions and flashbacks following trauma, but may be negatively affected by acute stress. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that the efficiency of visuo-spatial processing and learning based on the hippocampal area is related to PTSD symptoms.

Objective: The current study investigated the effect of acute stress on spatial configuration learning using a spatial contextual cueing task (SCCT) known to heavily rely on structures in the parahippocampus.

Method: Acute stress was induced by subjecting participants (N = 34) to the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST). Following a counterbalanced within-subject approach, the effects of stress and the ensuing hormonal (i.e., cortisol) activity on subsequent SCCT performance were compared to SCCT performance following a no-stress control condition.

Results: Acute stress did not impact SCCT learning overall, but opposing effects emerged for high versus low cortisol responders to the MAST. Learning scores following stress were reduced in low cortisol responders, while high cortisol-responding participants showed improved learning.

Conclusions: The effects of stress on spatial configuration learning were moderated by the magnitude of endogenous cortisol secretion. These findings suggest a possible mechanism by which cortisol responses serve an adaptive function during stress and trauma, and this may prove to be a promising route for future research in this area.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus

Contextual cueing effect across time for low and high cortisol responders. N=17 in both groups. SCCT Learning scores reflect the RT difference on trials with novel and repeated arrays, respectively, with higher values indicating better learning. Error bars represent standard errors of measurement.
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Figure 0003: Contextual cueing effect across time for low and high cortisol responders. N=17 in both groups. SCCT Learning scores reflect the RT difference on trials with novel and repeated arrays, respectively, with higher values indicating better learning. Error bars represent standard errors of measurement.

Mentions: To assess the specific role of cortisol responding, delta-peak cortisol values were entered as a two-level factor (group allocation by median-split).2 A 2 (Condition: stress, control) by 6 (Epoch) by 2 (Responder: high, low) repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant Condition by Responder interaction, F(1, 32) = 9.2, p=0.005, =0.22, in the absence of a three-way interaction, F(3.9, 126) = 0.9, p=0.46. Examination of this effect separately for each condition showed that the responder groups differed from each other in the stress, F(1, 32) = 8.1, p=0.008, =0.203, but not the control condition, F(1, 32) = 1.9, p=0.177, =0.06. Follow-up tests suggest a negative effect of the stress condition as compared with the control condition on SCCT learning in low cortisol responders, F(1, 16) = 4.9, uncorrected p=0.042, =0.23, and a positive effect of the stress condition in high cortisol responders, F(1, 16) = 4.4, uncorrected p=0.052, =0.22 (see Fig. 3). In line with these findings, delta-peak cortisol values in the stress condition correlated positively with SCCT learning scores in the stress condition, r=0.353, p=0.042 (two-tailed).


Acute stress differentially affects spatial configuration learning in high and low cortisol-responding healthy adults.

Meyer T, Smeets T, Giesbrecht T, Quaedflieg CW, Merckelbach H - Eur J Psychotraumatol (2013)

Contextual cueing effect across time for low and high cortisol responders. N=17 in both groups. SCCT Learning scores reflect the RT difference on trials with novel and repeated arrays, respectively, with higher values indicating better learning. Error bars represent standard errors of measurement.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3644058&req=5

Figure 0003: Contextual cueing effect across time for low and high cortisol responders. N=17 in both groups. SCCT Learning scores reflect the RT difference on trials with novel and repeated arrays, respectively, with higher values indicating better learning. Error bars represent standard errors of measurement.
Mentions: To assess the specific role of cortisol responding, delta-peak cortisol values were entered as a two-level factor (group allocation by median-split).2 A 2 (Condition: stress, control) by 6 (Epoch) by 2 (Responder: high, low) repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant Condition by Responder interaction, F(1, 32) = 9.2, p=0.005, =0.22, in the absence of a three-way interaction, F(3.9, 126) = 0.9, p=0.46. Examination of this effect separately for each condition showed that the responder groups differed from each other in the stress, F(1, 32) = 8.1, p=0.008, =0.203, but not the control condition, F(1, 32) = 1.9, p=0.177, =0.06. Follow-up tests suggest a negative effect of the stress condition as compared with the control condition on SCCT learning in low cortisol responders, F(1, 16) = 4.9, uncorrected p=0.042, =0.23, and a positive effect of the stress condition in high cortisol responders, F(1, 16) = 4.4, uncorrected p=0.052, =0.22 (see Fig. 3). In line with these findings, delta-peak cortisol values in the stress condition correlated positively with SCCT learning scores in the stress condition, r=0.353, p=0.042 (two-tailed).

Bottom Line: Acute stress did not impact SCCT learning overall, but opposing effects emerged for high versus low cortisol responders to the MAST.Learning scores following stress were reduced in low cortisol responders, while high cortisol-responding participants showed improved learning.The effects of stress on spatial configuration learning were moderated by the magnitude of endogenous cortisol secretion.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

ABSTRACT

Background: Stress and stress hormones modulate memory formation in various ways that are relevant to our understanding of stress-related psychopathology, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Particular relevance is attributed to efficient memory formation sustained by the hippocampus and parahippocampus. This process is thought to reduce the occurrence of intrusions and flashbacks following trauma, but may be negatively affected by acute stress. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that the efficiency of visuo-spatial processing and learning based on the hippocampal area is related to PTSD symptoms.

Objective: The current study investigated the effect of acute stress on spatial configuration learning using a spatial contextual cueing task (SCCT) known to heavily rely on structures in the parahippocampus.

Method: Acute stress was induced by subjecting participants (N = 34) to the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST). Following a counterbalanced within-subject approach, the effects of stress and the ensuing hormonal (i.e., cortisol) activity on subsequent SCCT performance were compared to SCCT performance following a no-stress control condition.

Results: Acute stress did not impact SCCT learning overall, but opposing effects emerged for high versus low cortisol responders to the MAST. Learning scores following stress were reduced in low cortisol responders, while high cortisol-responding participants showed improved learning.

Conclusions: The effects of stress on spatial configuration learning were moderated by the magnitude of endogenous cortisol secretion. These findings suggest a possible mechanism by which cortisol responses serve an adaptive function during stress and trauma, and this may prove to be a promising route for future research in this area.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus