The Roles of Noradrenergic and Glucocorticoid Activation in the Development of Intrusive Memories
Bryant, RA and McGrath, C and Felmingham, KL, The Roles of Noradrenergic and Glucocorticoid Activation in the Development of Intrusive Memories, PLOS One, 8, (4) Article e62675. ISSN 1932-6203 (2013) [Refereed Article]
Intrusive memories are a common feature of many psychological disorders. Recent evidence has potentially extended cognitive models of intrusions by identifying the role of biological markers of arousal at the time of consolidation in subsequent memory for emotional events. This study investigated the role of arousal during consolidation in the development of intrusive memories. Seventy-eight university students (37 men and 41 women) viewed 20 negative and 20 neutral images. Half the participants then underwent a cold pressor test (High Stress), immersing their hand in ice water, while the remaining participants immersed their hand in warm water (Low Stress). Samples of salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) and cortisol were collected from participants at baseline and following the stressor challenge. Participants completed a delayed free recall test and intrusion questionnaires two days later. Participants in the High Stress condition reported more intrusions of negative images than participants in the Low Stress condition. An interaction variable in a linear regression of increased noradrenergic and cortisol values predicted intrusive memories of emotional stimuli for men but not women. These findings are consistent with recent evidence of the combined effects of noradrenaline and corticoid responses to stress on emotional memories, and also with increasing evidence of gender differences in how stress hormones influence formation of emotional memories. These findings point to possible mechanisms by which development of intrusions may be prevented after consolidation of traumatic experiences.