Stress disrupts context-dependent memory

Learn Mem. 2009 Jan 29;16(2):110-3. doi: 10.1101/lm.1257509. Print 2009 Feb.


Memory is facilitated when the retrieval context resembles the learning context. The brain structures underlying contextual influences on memory are susceptible to stress. Whether stress interferes with context-dependent memory is still unknown. We exposed healthy adults to stress or a control procedure before they learned an object-location task in a room scented with vanilla. Memory was tested 24 h later, either in the same or in a different context (unfamiliar room without the odor). Stress administered prior to encoding abolished the context-dependent memory enhancement found in the control group. Thus, these findings represent the first demonstration of impaired context-dependent memory following stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Learning / physiology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pressure
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone