The relationship between acute stress, chronic stress, and spatial performance
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Type of Workapplication/pdf
iv, 45 pages
DepartmentTowson University. Department of Psychology
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Many theories differentiate the cognitive impacts of acute versus chronic stress. For example, acute stress has been suggested to alter visual attention (Williams & Anderson, 1997), and chronic stress has been implicated in hippocampal atrophy by means of hypercortsolism (Sapolsky, 1999). This study related the stress indicators blood pressure, heart rate, and selfreport questionnaires, with performance in a spatial navigation task, the virtual Morris Water Maze. Fifty-four university students participated. Significant positive relationships found between the questionnaires and two of the physiological measurements lend physiologic support to the questionnaires. Some support was found for the relatedness of acute and chronic stress measurements (hypothesis one). This study shows that a coalescence of chronic and acute stress indicators relates more closely with performance than either chronic or acute stress exclusively (hypothesis two). This uniquely suggests that acute and chronic stress are both instrumental to the stress-performance relationship. A quadratic relationship found between the main performance variable, mean time latency, and a combination of chronic and acute stress variables indicates the lowest stress levels corresponded with the lowest performance, and highest stress levels with both the poorest and best performance (F (2, 46) = 3.57, p<.05). Also of interest is daily video-gamers' significantly higher blood pressure readings.