STRESS AND EPISODIC MEMORY: THE FATE OF NEUTRAL VERSUS EMOTIONAL INFORMATION
AuthorPayne, Jessica Danielle
Committee ChairNadel, Lynn
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis paper describes two experiments, each of which investigated the impact of stress on human episodic memory. All participants watched narrated slide shows containing emotional and neutral information. Experiment 1 demonstrated that pre-learning exposure to a psychological stressor (the Trier Social Stress Test or "TSST"; Kirschbaum, Pirke & Hellhammer, 1993) preserved or enhanced memory for emotional aspects of the slide show, but impaired memory for neutral aspects of the slide show. Moreover, stress exposure disrupted memory for information that was visually and thematically central to the slide show. Memory for peripheral information, on the other hand, was unaffected by stress. Experiment 2 replicated these results and extended them to a similar paradigm, where participants viewed separate emotional and neutral slide shows, and saliva was tested for the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. Similar to the results of Experiment 1, stress disrupted memory for the neutral slide show, but enhanced memory for the emotional slide show. Salivary cortisol levels at retrieval were negatively correlated with memory for the neutral slide show. These results are consistent with theories invoking differential effects of stress on brain systems responsible for encoding and retrieving emotional memories (the amygdala) and non-emotional memories (e.g. the hippocampal formation, frontal cortex), and inconsistent with the view that memories formed under high levels of stress are qualitatively the same as those formed under ordinary emotional circumstances. These data, which are also consistent with results obtained in a number of studies using animals and humans, have implications for the traumatic memory debate and theories regarding human memory.