Can stress sensitivity, reactivity, and resiliency be predicted using scene discrimination?
Macdonald, James Colton
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A region of the hippocampus—the subiculum—is involved in stress response regulation through indirectly inhibiting cortisol release; it has also been shown to play a role in perceptual discrimination, with greater amounts of neural activity being observed during scene discrimination in comparison to object and face discrimination. The present study aimed to determine if perceptual discrimination (scenes, faces, objects) is predictive of stress sensitivity, reactivity, and trait-resiliency, in light of the shared subiculum involvement. The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was used to manipulate high or low stress. Stress sensitivity was measured using the STAI-state before and after the high or low (TSST), reactivity was measured throughout the study using heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BPS, BPD) and cortisol, while trait-resiliency was measured prior to the TSST using the Brief Resiliency Scale. Scene discrimination reaction time (RT) was negatively correlated with BPD change overall; scene RT also showed a negative trend with cortisol change in the high stress group. Scene accuracy produced a positive correlation trend with BPS change in the high stress condition. Object discrimination accuracy was negatively correlated with BPS change overall, and negative trends were also seen with STAI-state change and with resiliency. Face discrimination accuracy produced a negative correlation trend with HR change overall, significant in the high stress condition, while face RT showed a positive correlation trend for resiliency overall. These findings suggest that those who demonstrate better scene discrimination performance display greater stress reactivity, whereas those demonstrating better face or object discrimination display less stress reactivity and sensitivity.