Stress May Impact Cognitive Performance

Chronic stress is a well-known risk factor for major conditions such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety disorders. In healthy individuals it can disrupt creativity, flexible problem solving, and working memory. These are all related to processes dependent on an area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). A new research report looked at 20 medical students preparing for licensing exams and compared them with 20 matched controls.

Those who experienced chronic (1 month) stress exhibited significantly more difficulty in maintaing focus and attention than those who were not stressed. The good news is that when the tests were repeated a month later after a reduced stress period there was no difference between the groups.

Positive Tip: Physical activity, relaxation activities and wholesome meditation may ameliorate the effects of stress on cognitive performance. Who knows, you’ll probably do better on your exams–and in life, also.