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Stress effects on the temporal dynamics of cognitive control

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Reference

Maran, T., Sachse, P., Hutzenthaler, N., Herz, C., Peglow, N., & Furtner, M. (2016). Stress effects on the temporal dynamics of cognitive control. Presented at the 58th Conference of Experimental Psychologists (TeaP 2016), Heidelberg, Germany.

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Presentation at Scholarly Conference

Abstract

The dual-mechanisms framework proposed by Braver (2012) postulates two modes of cognitive control: a proactive mode which maintains goal-relevant information actively in a sustained manner to bias cognitive processes in anticipation of a conflicting situation and a reactive mode as a ‘late correction’ mechanism where task sets are activated by detection of a cognitive conflict. Although evidence exists for cognitive control impairments in various stress-related disorders, no study to date explores the influence of exposure to highly stressful events on the temporal dynamics of cognitive control. A sample of 89 healthy young adults was randomly assigned to three affect groups and performed a modified AX-continuous performance task (AX-CPT). To effectively manipulate stress-levels, participants were exposed to either a violent film clip, an explicitly erotic clip or a neutral control clip. Errors and reaction time data were analyzed to calculate indices for proactive and reactive control performance. Results showed increased proactive control in both stressful conditions as compared to the control condition, without any change of reactive control performance. Our findings provide evidence for a shift toward proactive control in highly aroused states, regardless of valence. We conclude that exposure to stressful events enhances proactive control and thereby strengthens maintenance of goal-related information to reduce distractibility in biological relevant situations (e.g. threat, reproduction).

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  • Institute for Entrepreneurship
  • Chair of Entrepreneurship and Leadership

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