The Cognitive Neuroscience of Acute Stress


Acute stress is a situation that exceeds an individual’s coping resources. The physiological response to acute stress is controlled by a network of neural regions, including the hippocampus, amygdala, and medial prefrontal cortex. This presentation will present research on the assessment of acute stress in the laboratory, the role of these neural regions in stress reactivity, as well as the effects of acute stress on cognitive and social function.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how acute stress can be elicited in the laboratory as a model to understand the effects of stress on mental function.
  • Recognize the specific neural networks that control the physiological stress response.
  • Understand that acute stress exerts powerful effects on a number of cognitive and social functions that can be assessed in the laboratory.

Slides in PDF Format



Tony W. Buchanan is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology and is Co-Director of the Neuroscience Program at Saint Louis University. Dr. Buchanan’s work focuses on the intersection between stress and cognitive function, including learning and memory, language, and decision-making. More recent work in Dr. Buchanan’s lab has examined the influence of stress on social cognition, including the study of empathy and altruism. His work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute on Aging, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression, and the Templeton Foundation.

Associate Professor, Experimental Program: Cognition and Neuroscience and Director of the Neuroscience Program (Ph.D., University of Oklahoma)

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