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The imaging Maastricht Acute Stress Test (iMAST): A neuroimaging compatible psychophysiological stressor


  • This research was supported by grants 451-08-005 and 056-25-011 from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) to TS. NWO had no further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication. We are especially grateful to Phyllis Mania for her help in collecting the data.

Address correspondence to: Conny W. E. M. Quaedflieg, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, P.O. Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands. E-mail:


Several protocols have been developed for inducing acute stress in laboratory settings. Still, effectively eliciting stress in a neuroimaging environment remains challenging. Here, we describe the evaluation of a combined physical and psychosocial stress protocol (n = 42). The imaging Maastricht Acute Stress Test (iMAST) consists of a 5-min preparation phase and a 10-min acute stress phase, with alternating trials of cold pressor stress generated through an advanced thermal stimulator and mental arithmetic challenges along with social-evaluative pressure (i.e., negative feedback). Results demonstrate that participants displayed meaningful subjective stress responses, as well as significant increases in salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol levels. Our data show that the iMAST may prove to be a potent alternative to existing imaging stress paradigms to explore poststress neuronal changes and brain determinants of resilience.