Physiological Effects of Stress Response on Working Memory
Journal of Advanced Student Sciences (JASS)
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There is currently little scientific consensus on the effects of stress on working memory. This paper sought to assess the immediate impact of a stressful startle stimulus on subjects’ working memory. While monitoring heart rate, respiration, and skin conductance, subjects in the treatment group (n=21) performed a working memory test that was followed by an unexpected scream and frightening image. Control subjects (n=18) did not receive the startle stimulus, but a “thank you” message. After receiving the startle stimulus or “thank you” message, subjects completed the working memory test again. The physiological metrics revealed a significant difference in heart rate (p=0.0002) and respiratory rate (p=0.0001) between treatment and control groups. However, there was no significant difference between skin conductance and memory test performance, with both control and treatment groups showing an average score increase of 2.72 and 2.33 in test scores respectively. While the startle stimulus appeared to evoke a stress response (seen by an increase in heart rate and respiratory rate), the similar performance of control and treatment memory tests suggests no relationship between stress and working memory.
An article that appeared in JASS, issue 2019