Stress and cognitive function

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 1995 Apr;5(2):205-16. doi: 10.1016/0959-4388(95)80028-x.


Stress affects cognition in a number of ways, acting rapidly via catecholamines and more slowly via glucocorticoids. Catecholamine actions involve beta adrenergic receptors and also availability of glucose, whereas glucocorticoids biphasically modulate synaptic plasticity over hours and also produce longer-term changes in dendritic structure that last for weeks. Prolonged exposure to stress leads to loss of neurons, particularly in the hippocampus. Recent evidence suggests that the glucocorticoid- and stress-related cognitive impairments involving declarative memory are probably related to the changes they effect in the hippocampus, whereas the stress-induced catecholamine effects on emotionally laden memories are postulated to involve structures such as the amgydala.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catecholamines / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Glucocorticoids / physiology
  • Humans
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*


  • Catecholamines
  • Glucocorticoids