Nav: Home

Weather prediction task: Learning achievement with and without stress

August 08, 2012

Stressed and non-stressed persons use different brain regions and different strategies when learning. This has been reported by the cognitive psychologists PD Dr. Lars Schwabe and Professor Oliver Wolf from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in the Journal of Neuroscience. Non-stressed individuals applied a deliberate learning strategy, while stressed subjects relied more on their gut feeling. "These results demonstrate for the first time that stress has an influence on which of the different memory systems the brain turns on," said Lars Schwabe.

The experiment: Stress due to ice-water

The data from 59 subjects were included in the study. Half of the participants had to immerse one hand into ice-cold water for three minutes under video surveillance. This stressed the subjects, as hormone assays showed. The other participants had to immerse one of their hands just in warm water. Then both the stressed and non-stressed individuals completed the so-called weather prediction task. The subjects looked at playing cards with different symbols and learned to predict which combinations of cards announced rain and which sunshine. Each combination of cards was associated with a certain probability of good or bad weather. People apply differently complex strategies in order to master the task. During the weather prediction task, the researchers recorded the brain activity with MRI.

Two routes to success

Both stressed and non-stressed subjects learned to predict the weather according to the symbols. Non-stressed participants focused on individual symbols and not on combinations of symbols. They consciously pursued a simple strategy. The MRI data showed that they activated a brain region in the medial temporal lobe - the hippocampus, which is important for long-term memory. Stressed subjects, on the other hand, applied a more complex strategy. They made their decisions based on the combination of symbols. They did this, however, subconsciously, i.e. they were not able to formulate their strategy in words. The result of the brain scans was also accordingly: In the case of the stressed volunteers the so-called striatum in the mid-brain was activated - a brain region that is responsible for more unconscious learning. "Stress interferes with conscious, purposeful learning, which is dependent upon the hippocampus," concluded Lars Schwabe. "So that makes the brain use other resources. In the case of stress, the striatum controls behaviour - which saves the learning achievement."
-end-
Bibliographic record

L. Schwabe, O. Wolf (2012): Stress modulates the engagement of multiple memory systems in classification learning, Journal of Neuroscience, doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1484-12.2012

Further information

PD Dr. Lars Schwabe, Cognition Psychology, Institute for Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology, Ruhr-Universität, 44780 Bochum, Germany, Tel. +49/234/32-29324 Lars.Schwabe@rub.de

Click for more

Earlier press releases on the subject http://aktuell.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/pm2012/pm00253.html.en

Department of Cognition Psychology http://www.cog.psy.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/index.html

Editor: Dr. Julia Weiler

Ruhr-University Bochum

Related Stress Articles:

Captive meerkats at risk of stress
Small groups of meerkats -- such as those commonly seen in zoos and safari parks -- are at greater risk of chronic stress, new research suggests.
Stress may protect -- at least in bacteria
Antibiotics harm bacteria and stress them. Trimethoprim, an antibiotic, inhibits the growth of the bacterium Escherichia coli and induces a stress response.
Some veggies each day keeps the stress blues away
Eating three to four servings of vegetables daily is associated with a lower incidence of psychological stress, new research by University of Sydney scholars reveals.
Prebiotics may help to cope with stress
Probiotics are well known to benefit digestive health, but prebiotics are less well understood.
Building stress-resistant memories
Though it's widely assumed that stress zaps a person's ability to recall memory, it doesn't have that effect when memory is tested immediately after a taxing event, and when subjects have engaged in a highly effective learning technique, a new study reports.
Stress during pregnancy
The environment the unborn child is exposed to inside the womb can have a major effect on her or his development and future health.
New insights into how the brain adapts to stress
New research led by the University of Bristol has found that genes in the brain that play a crucial role in behavioural adaptation to stressful challenges are controlled by epigenetic mechanisms.
Uncertainty can cause more stress than inevitable pain
Knowing that there is a small chance of getting a painful electric shock can lead to significantly more stress than knowing that you will definitely be shocked.
Stress could help activate brown fat
Mild stress stimulates the activity and heat production by brown fat associated with raised cortisol, according to a study published today in Experimental Physiology.
Experiencing major stress makes some older adults better able to handle daily stress
Dealing with a major stressful event appears to make some older adults better able to cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day stress.

Related Stress Reading:

The Stress-Proof Brain: Master Your Emotional Response to Stress Using Mindfulness and Neuroplasticity
by Melanie Greenberg PhD (Author)

“For people suffering from stress, this book is a godsend.”
Kristin Neff, PhD, author of Self-Compassion

"Highly recommended for mental health professionals and consumer health readers looking to manage stress."
Library Journal (starred review)


Modern times are stressful—and it’s killing us. Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the things that stress us out, but we can change how we respond to them. In this breakthrough book, a clinical psychologist and neuroscience expert offers an original approach to... View Details


Stress-Free Chicken Tractor Plans: An Easy to Follow, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Own Chicken Tractors.
by John Suscovich (Author)

Inside these pages, you will find step-by-step instructions for a mobile broiler chicken shelter for pastured poultry that is used by farmers and homesteaders all over the country.

Raising chickens on grass provides them with a healthy lifestyle and a delicious flavor. You can raise just enough of them to feed your family or scale up to include pastured poultry as a profitable part of your farm business. John Suscovich has raised thousands of chickens using these mobile shelters, a main enterprise on his farm in Connecticut.

These chicken tractors were created using the best... View Details


The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger Self-Help Workbook)
by Martha Davis (Author), Elizabeth Robbins Eshelman (Author), Matthew McKay (Author)

The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook broke new ground when it was first published in 1980, detailing easy, step-by-step techniques for calming the body and mind in an increasingly overstimulated world. Now in its sixth edition, this workbook, highly regarded by therapists and their clients, remains the go-to source for stress reduction strategies that can be incorporated into even the busiest lives.

This new edition is updated with powerful relaxation techniques based on the latest research, and draws from a variety of proven treatment methods, including progressive... View Details


The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It
by Kelly McGonigal (Author)

Drawing from groundbreaking research, psychologist and award-winning teacher Kelly McGonigal, PhD, offers a surprising new view of stress—one that reveals the upside of stress, and shows us exactly how to capitalize on its benefits.

You hear it all the time: stress causes heart disease; stress causes insomnia; stress is bad for you! But what if changing how you think about stress could make you happier, healthier, and better able to reach your goals? Combining exciting new research on resilience and mindset, Kelly McGonigal, PhD, proves that undergoing stress is not bad for... View Details


The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living
by Amit Sood (Author), Mayo Clinic (Author)

Have you ever driven several miles without noticing anything on the road, or read a page in a book without registering any of it? Do the day's worries and disappointments crowd your mind as you're trying to fall asleep at night? Do you feel stressed much of the time and aren't sure how to find peace? In this book, Amit Sood, M.D., M.Sc., a Mayo Clinic specialist in stress and resiliency, reveals how the mind's instinctive restlessness and shortsightedness generate stress and anxiety and presents strategies for living a more peaceful life. The book is based on the highly popular stress... View Details


Stress: 17 Stress Management Habits to Reduce Stress, Live Stress-Free & Worry Less
by Linda Westwood (Author)

Struggling With Stress? Discover 17 LIFE-CHANGING Habits That WILL Relax Your Worries, Calm You Down, & Keep You Happy!

From the Best Selling health & fitness author, Linda Westwood, comes Stress: 17 Stress Management Habits to Reduce Stress, Live Stress-Free & Worry Less! This book will jump-start your mood, reduce your stress, increase your energy levels, clear your mind, and improve your overall health!

Our lives are full of regular habits that we live by every day, and these habits determine who we are, as a result. That's where these stress... View Details


Stress Management for Life: A Research-Based Experiential Approach
by Michael Olpin (Author), Margie Hesson (Author)

Clearly explaining the "how to" of stress management and prevention, STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR LIFE, 4e emphasizes experiential learning and encourages readers to personalize text information through practical applications and a "tool box" of stress-reducing resources, including activities and online stress-relief audio files. Michael Olpin and Margie Hesson offer more than just a book about stress; they offer readers a life-changing experience. Well-researched and engaging, the book empowers students to experience personal wellness by understanding and managing stress, gives stress-related... View Details


Managing Stress: Principles and Strategies for Health and Well-Being
by Brian Luke Seaward (Author)

Revised, updated and reorganized, Managing Stress: Principles & Strategies for Health and Well-Being Eighth Edition, provides a comprehensive approach to stress management honoring the integration, balance, and harmony of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. The holistic approach taken by internationally acclaimed lecturer and author Brian Luke Seaward gently guides the reader to greater levels of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being by emphasizing the importance of mind-body-spirit unity. Referred to as the "authority on stress management" by students and professionals, this... View Details


Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome
by James L. Wilson (Author), Jonathan V Wright (Foreword)

This is an incredibly informative and reader-friendly book about a common debilitating medical condition that goes largely undiagnosed and untreated. ADRENAL FATIGUE: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome is a very empowering work cram-packed with vital information about a condition that very likely affects millions of people. View Details


The End of Stress: Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain
by Don Joseph Goewey (Author)

We all know that stress is serious. If ignored too long, it becomes life-threateningly serious. Yet 83 percent of Americans are doing nothing about it. Don’t be one of them. There’s now a solution to stress that literally rewires your brain for a life of doing well, and being well, on your way to flourishing.

The most important brain discovery in the last 400 years concerns a simple but powerful shift in attitude that can change a brain wired for stress into a brain powered for success. This specific shift literally rewires the brain to deliver the full measure of intelligence,... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Big Five
What are the five biggest global challenges we face right now — and what can we do about them? This hour, TED speakers explore some radical solutions to these enduring problems. Guests include geoengineer Tim Kruger, president of the International Rescue Committee David Miliband, political scientist Ian Bremmer, global data analyst Sarah Menker, and historian Rutger Bregman.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#456 Inside a Conservation NGO
This week we take a close look at conservation NGOS: what they do, how they work, and - most importantly - why we need them. We'll be speaking with Shyla Raghav, the Climate Change Lead at Conservation International, about using strategy and policy to tackle climate change. Then we'll speak with Rebecca Shaw, Lead Scientist at the World Wildlife Fund, about how and why you should get involved with conservation initiatives.