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Stuart Pugh, Tamaryn Menneer, Dominic Taunton, Anne Hillstrom, Nick Donnelly; The effects of acute stress on the attentional network.. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):693. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.693.
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The potential for acute stress to alter normal cognitive functioning is well reported (McEwen & Sapolsky, 1995). For attention, evidence for the nature of this change – whether advantageous (Helton et al., 2009) or detrimental (Scholz et al., 2009) – is conflicted. The current study investigated the effects of acute stress on attention using the revised Attentional Network Task (ANT-R) (Fan et al., 2009) and the Socially Evaluative Cold Pressor Task (Schwabe et al., 2008). Before the stressor, baseline performance on the ANT-R was taken. After the stressor, or comparable control, ANT-R performance was measured in line with two known physiological reactions following stress (Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Hypothalamic-Pituitary Adrenal Axis (HPA) activation). Subjective and physiological stress measures were recorded to assess state, with anxiety (SSAI, Spielberger, 1989) and an adapted NASA-TLX (Hart & Staveland, 1988) demonstrating that stress was successfully induced (physiological measures awaiting assay). ANT-R measures showed, for the stress group, a benefit in alerting (RT) and a cost for inhibition of return (IOR, accuracy) in the SNS time period. Both effects remained when including baseline measures for trait anxiety (STAI, Spielberger, 1989) Intolerance of Uncertainty (IUS-12, Carleton et al., 2007), spatial working memory (Shackman et al., 2006) and gender as predictors, but did not remain after correction for multiple comparisons. There was some evidence for gender mediating the effects of stress on SNS and HPA ANT performance, which did not remain when individual trait differences were included. No differences were found for other ANT-R measures (pη2 = .000 to .056, power = .052 to .512). The results present some resolution to previous conflicting findings, suggesting that the SNS response to stress affects attention in both advantageous (alerting) and detrimental (IOR) ways. However, it provides minimal evidence of effects of acute stress on attention during the HPA reactivity period.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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