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Keywords:

  • Psychosocial stress;
  • Cortisol;
  • Attentional workload;
  • N1/P2;
  • MMN

Abstract

An EEG-compatible adaptation of the Trier Social Stress Test was developed to induce psychosocial stress in healthy subjects while investigating their auditory processing of unattended sounds and salivary levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The mismatch negativity (MMN) and N1/P2 were assessed using a multifeature paradigm, while subjects were attending to visual tasks with high or low attentional workload. Only the responses to duration change were affected by the stress manipulation. Cortisol levels during stress were inversely related to the MMN amplitudes of duration deviants. During anticipatory stress, responses to the standard tones (general sound processing) increased, but their amplitude was not correlated with cortisol levels. We found that psychosocial stressor anticipation attenuates both general and deviance-specific sound processing, suggesting that cortisol interferes with cortical memory-trace formation.