The effects of cardiovascular stress on cognition

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael McGathy (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Winford Gordon

Abstract: Human beings are frequently exposed to significant levels of psychological andphysical stress. How stress is perceived determines the positive (eustress) andnegative (distress) effects it can have on someone. This research looked at theeffect of moderate cardiovascular stress on three cognitive functions. Theprocedure measured changes in directed attention using the reversible figure test(RFT), response inhibition using the Stroop test (ST) and short term memoryusing the reverse digit span test (RDS). This test determined that moderatecardiovascular demand is either eustressful or distressful depending on thecognitive function. Fifty-seven undergraduate students or similar volunteers wereused in the study. Participants were in either a sedentary control condition (SC)or a moderate cardiovascular stress condition (MCS). All participants completedthe cognitive measures three times. Maximal heart rate reserve (HRR) wascalculated for each participant and in the moderate cardiovascular stresscondition the participants maintained a target heart rate between 45% and 55%of their HRR. A repeated-measures analysis of variance (rmANOVA) was used toanalyze the data for each cognitive measure separately. Participants in the MCScondition were less attention fatigued ( x = 19.747) than the SC condition ( x = 20.476). Short-term memory was significantly better in the SC condition ( x =6.813) than the MCS condition ( x = 6.381). The results from the Stroop Color-Word Task was significantly different in the SC condition ( x = -0.543) than theMCS condition ( x = 2.019), but a procedural error in the MCS conditionobscured the true ST scores. MCS stress has important effects on cognition, butthe mechanisms at play are still not well understood.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2014
cardiovascular stress, cognition, heart rate reserve, Stroop
Stress (Physiology) -- Psychological aspects
Cognition -- Physiological aspects

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