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The impact of psychosocial stress on cognition

Psychosocial stress influences cognition, affect and behavior. From a neuroendocrine perspective, stress is associated with an increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. This chapter will review the impact of acute stress on cognition in humans. It will follow the information flow by describing stress effects on perception, attention, executive functions, long-term memory and social cognition. Stress induces shifts in multiple cognitive systems thereby enabling the organism to rapidly respond to threat and to cope with the challenge afterwards. These findings are of relevance for educational, organizational and clinical applications.


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