The Impact of Stress on Episodic vs. Semantic Memory

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The current study examined the relationships between long-term perceived stress, induced acute stress, cortisol levels, and performance on processing speed, working memory, and semantic memory tasks. The study measured two types of stress: long-term real life and acute induced stress. Long-term real life stress was measured via a life events inventory (LES) and a perceived stress scale (PSS). We experimentally manipulated acute stress in half of the participants by asking them to solve math problems aloud in front of the experimenter. The Woodcock-Johnson Cross-out tests was used to assess processing speed; a reading span task was used to measure working memory, and a test of English vocabulary served as a measure of semantic long term memory. Consistent with past research, participants in the acute stress condition are expected to show elevated cortisol levels and impaired performance on the reading span task. We will also explore if stress impacts semantic memory performance and if the effects are more pronounced on recall tests than on recognition tests. Finally, we will explore if long-term stress measures explain variability in cognitive performance that’s independent of acute stress.

Faculty Mentor

Lynda Hall

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