May 18, 2021

The effect of stress on memory for temporal context: an exploratory study

<p>Trauma memories can appear dissociated from their original temporal context, and are often relived as they occur in the here-and-now. Potentially these temporal distortions already occur during encoding of the aversive experience as a consequence of stress. Here, 86 participants were subjected to either a stress or control induction, after which they learned the temporal structure of four virtual days. In these virtual days, time was scaled and participants could use clock cues to construe the passage of time within a day. We examined whether stress causes a shift in the learning strategy from one based on virtual time to one based on event sequence. Our results do not show a discernible impact of stress on memory for temporal context, in terms of both sequence memory and more fine-grained representations of time. The stress groups showed more extreme performance trajectories, either good or poor, across all measures. However, as time estimations were overall quite poor it is unclear to what extent this reflected a true strategy shift. Future avenues of research that can build on these findings are discussed.</p>
<p> bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience</p>
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