Does stress enhance or impair memory consolidation?

Cogn Emot. 2014;28(2):361-74. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2013.822346. Epub 2013 Jul 30.

Abstract

Three experiments examined the hypothesis that stress-induced arousal enhances long-term memory for experiences associated with arousing events. Contrary to expectations, in each experiment exposure to a stressor (arm immersion in ice water) interfered with, rather than enhanced, long-term memory for associated material. Despite varying the stimuli (words, pictures), their emotional value (positive, negative, neutral), the time between learning and stress inductions (0 to 1 minute), and opportunities for post-learning rehearsal, each experiment produced a significant reversal of the hypothesised effect. That is, in each experiment, exposure to a stressor interfered with, rather than enhanced, long-term memory for associated material. We conclude that the relationship between stress and memory consolidation is more bounded than previously believed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Arousal*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Memory, Long-Term*
  • Mental Recall
  • Pain Measurement
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress, Physiological*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Hydrocortisone