Article

The effects of social stress and cortisol responses on the preconscious selective attention to social threat

Section Clinical and Health Psychology, University of Leiden, PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands.
Biological Psychology (Impact Factor: 3.47). 05/2007; 75(1):1-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.09.002
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of social stress and stress-induced cortisol on the preconscious selective attention to social threat. Twenty healthy participants were administered a masked emotional Stroop task (comparing color-naming latencies for angry, neutral and happy faces) in conditions of rest and social stress. Stress was induced by means of the Trier social stress test. Based on the stress-induced increase in cortisol levels, participants were allocated post hoc (median-split) to a high and low responders group. In contrast to low responders, high responders showed a negative or avoidant attentional bias to threat (i.e. shorter latencies for angry than neutral faces) in the rest condition. Most importantly, although low responders became avoidant, the high responders became vigilant to the angry faces after stress induction. There were no such effects for happy faces. Our findings are in line with previous studies in both animals and humans, that associate high glucocorticoid stress-responsiveness with diminished avoidance and prolonged freezing reactions during stress.

1 Follower
 · 
104 Views
  • Source
    • "This finding is consistent with a view that elevated levels of HPA axis activity facilitate the selection of aggressive responses and/or the enactment of aggressive strategies. Such effects may take place through both emotional pathways, such as the increase of anger, and through cognitive pathways as outlined in social information processing theories (Roelofs et al., 2007). The lack of a link between cortisol reactivity to couple conflict discussion and aggression was surprising, but may be due to the non-independence of baseline and reactivity measures. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Despite advances in understanding the role that several physiological systems play in the occurrence of general violence, little progress has been made toward understanding biological correlates of intimate partner violence (IPV). We explored involvement of one physiological system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Among 137 heterosexual couples expecting a first child, baseline level of HPA activity-assessed via salivary cortisol collected before a couple conflict discussion-was linked to both men's and women's violence perpetration. HPA reactivity to the conflict bout did not show an independent association with IPV. However, persisting elevation in men's, and down-regulation in women's, HPA activity during a further recovery period was linked to men's violence perpetration.
    Aggressive Behavior 11/2011; 37(6):492-502. DOI:10.1002/ab.20406 · 2.27 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "It is now well-established that attentional biases are present in individuals diagnosed with a range of anxiety disorders (Bar-Haim et al., 2007) as indexed by heightened and sustained vigilance for visual stimuli conveying threat (Mogg and Bradley, 2002). Attentional biases have also been associated with heightened HPA-axis activity (Ellenbogen et al., 2002; Roelofs et al., 2007) providing a basis for cognitive-biological accounts of mood disorders (Beck, 2008). Furthermore, a genetic mechanism for attentional biases has emerged through its association with variations in the serotonin transporter gene (Perez-Edgar et al., 2010). "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Anxiety disorders represent a common but often debilitating form of psychopathology in both children and adults. While there is a growing understanding of the etiology and maintenance of these disorders across various research domains, only recently have integrative accounts been proposed. While classical attachment history has been a traditional core construct in psychological models of anxiety, contemporary attachment theory has the potential to integrate neurobiological and behavioral findings within a multidisciplinary developmental framework. The current paper proposes a modern attachment theory-based developmental model grounded in relevant literature from multiple disciplines including social neuroscience, genetics, neuroendocrinology, and the study of family factors involved in the development of anxiety disorders. Recent accounts of stress regulation have highlighted the interplay between stress, anxiety, and activation of the attachment system. This interplay directly affects the development of social-cognitive and mentalizing capacities that are acquired in the interpersonal context of early attachment relationships. Early attachment experiences are conceptualized as the key organizer of a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and epigenetic contributions to the development of anxiety disorders - a multifactorial etiology resulting from dysfunctional co-regulation of fear and stress states. These risk-conferring processes are characterized by hyperactivation strategies in the face of anxiety. The cumulative allostatic load and subsequent "wear and tear" effects associated with hyperactivation strategies converge on the neural pathways of anxiety and stress. Attachment experiences further influence the development of anxiety as potential moderators of risk factors, differentially impacting on genetic vulnerability and relevant neurobiological pathways. Implications for further research and potential treatments are outlined.
    Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 09/2011; 5:55. DOI:10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00055 · 4.16 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Approach and avoidance reactions were assessed in reaction to positive and threatening social stimuli (i.e., happy and angry faces) using a reaction time affect-evaluation task (the approach–avoidance task, Rotteveel and Phaf, 2004), and threat processing was measured by recording event-related potentials during task performance. The approach– avoidance task provides a reliable tool to investigate overt avoidance behavior (see e.g., Chen and Bargh, 1999; Rotteveel and Phaf, 2004; Solarz, 1960) and has been shown to be sensitive to social anxiety and cortisol manipulations in healthy populations (Heuer et al., 2007; Roelofs et al., 2005; van Peer et al., 2007). Based on earlier findings with high anxious healthy participants (van Peer et al., 2007) we expected relatively increased avoidance (i.e., slower approach or faster avoidance responses) and enhanced processing (i.e., increased early (P150) and later (P300) positive ERP amplitudes) of angry faces after cortisol administration. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: We investigated the effects of cortisol administration on approach and avoidance tendencies in 20 patients with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) were measured during a reaction time task, in which patients evaluated the emotional expression of photographs of happy and angry faces by making an approaching (flexion) or avoiding (extension) arm movement. Patients showed significant avoidance tendencies for angry but not for happy faces, both in the placebo and cortisol condition. Moreover, ERP analyses showed a significant interaction of condition by severity of social anxiety on early positive (P150) amplitudes during avoidance compared to approach, indicating that cortisol increases early processing of social stimuli (in particular angry faces) during avoidance. This result replicates previous findings from a non-clinical sample of high anxious individuals and demonstrates their relevance for clinical SAD. Apparently the cortisol-induced increase in processing of angry faces in SAD depends on symptom severity and motivational context.
    Biological psychology 06/2009; 81(2):123-30. DOI:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2009.03.006 · 3.47 Impact Factor
Show more