Neural mechanisms and computations underlying stress effects on learning and memory

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2011 Jun;21(3):502-8. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2011.03.003. Epub 2011 Apr 16.


Stress has complex effects on memory function that can vary depending on the type of information that is learned and in relation to inter-individual characteristics. Recent work has also shown that stress can switch performance between memory systems, biasing it toward habit in detriment of spatial or goal-directed strategies. In addition, novel synaptic mechanisms have been implicated in the effects of stress in plasticity and memory. Computational modeling is emerging as a useful approach to integrate and to ascertain neural and cognitive computations underlying different effects of stress in memory. Having provided novel explanations for the inverted-U-shaped relationship between stress and cognitive performance, model-based analysis studies can improve our understanding of diverse effects of stress in cognition and psychopathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Learning Disabilities / etiology*
  • Memory Disorders / etiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*