Pharmacy Practice Faculty Publications

Title

Brief, Pre-learning Stress Reduces False Memory Production and Enhances True Memory Selectively in Females

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

4-10-2014

Journal Title

Physiology & behavior

ISSN

1873-507X

Volume

128

First Page

270

Last Page

276

DOI

10.1016/j.physbeh.2014.02.028

PubMed ID

24560841

Abstract

Some of the previous research on stress-memory interactions has suggested that stress increases the production of false memories. However, as accumulating work has shown that the effects of stress on learning and memory depend critically on the timing of the stressor, we hypothesized that brief stress administered immediately before learning would reduce, rather than increase, false memory production. In the present study, participants submerged their dominant hand in a bath of ice cold water (stress) or sat quietly (no stress) for 3 min. Then, participants completed a short-term memory task, the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm, in which they were presented with 10 different lists of semantically related words (e.g., candy, sour, sugar) and, after each list, were tested for their memory of presented words (e.g., candy), non-presented unrelated "distractor" words (e.g., hat), and non-presented semantically related "critical lure" words (e.g., sweet). Stress, overall, significantly reduced the number of critical lures recalled (i.e., false memory) by participants. In addition, stress enhanced memory for the presented words (i.e., true memory) in female, but not male, participants. These findings reveal that stress does not unequivocally enhance false memory production and that the timing of the stressor is an important variable that could mediate such effects. Such results could have important implications for understanding the dependability of eyewitness accounts of events that are observed following stress.

Keywords

Blood pressure, female, heart rate, humans, hydrocortisone, male, memory, mental recall, saliva, sex factors, stress, psychological, young adult