Stress Potentiates Early and Attenuates Late Stages of Visual Processing
The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: n.d.
Sources ID: 23187
Zotero Collections: Contexts of Contemplation Project
Stress can fundamentally alter neural responses to incoming information. Recent research suggests that stress and anxiety shift the balance of attention away from a task-directed mode, governed by prefrontal cortex (PFC), to a sensory-vigilance mode, governed by the amygdala and other threat-sensitive regions. A key untested prediction of this framework is that stress exerts dissociable effects on different stages of information processing. This study exploited the temporal resolution afforded by event-related potentials to disentangle the impact of stress on vigilance, indexed by early perceptual activity, from its impact on task-directed cognition, indexed by later post-perceptual activity in humans. Results indicated that threat-of-shock amplified stress, measured using retrospective ratings and concurrent facial electromyography (EMG). Stress also double-dissociated early sensory-specific from the later task-directed processing of emotionally-neutral stimuli: stress amplified N1 (184-236 ms) and attenuated P3 (316-488 ms) activity. This demonstrates that stress can have strikingly different consequences at different processing stages. Consistent with recent suggestions, stress amplified earlier extrastriate activity in a manner consistent with vigilance for threat (N1), but disrupted later activity associated with the evaluation of task-relevant information (P3). These results provide a novel basis for understanding how stress can modulate information processing in everyday life and stress-sensitive disorders.