Adrenocortical stress responses and altered working memory performance

Mustafa N al'Absi, Kenneth Hugdahl, William R. Lovallo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


This study examined stress cortisol responses and cognitive performance. We initially measured cortisol responses of 40 right-handed healthy male volunteers to counterbalanced mental arithmetic and public speaking stressors. We then examined the relationship between cortisol reactivity and dichotic listening and mental arithmetic performances High cortisol responders made more errors and completed fewer mental arithmetic items than low reactors. On dichotic listening, high responders tended toward better performance in all conditions and to both ears. High responders showed better performance to the right ear in the forced right than in the nonforced condition, whereas no difference between these conditions was found in low responders. High cortisol responders may have an increased focus on sensory stimuli and a decreased allocation of resources to working memory tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-99
Number of pages5
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Attention
  • Cognitive
  • Cortisol
  • Stress
  • Working memory


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