Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Stress physiology and memory for emotional information: Moderation by individual differences in pubertal hormones.


In contrast to a large body of work concerning the effects of physiological stress reactivity on children's socioemotional functioning, far less attention has been devoted to understanding the effects of such reactivity on cognitive, including mnemonic, functioning. How well children learn and remember information under stress has implications for a range of educational, clinical, and legal outcomes. We evaluated 8-14 year olds' (N = 94, 50 female) memory for negative, neutral, and positive images. Youth had seen the images a week previously as a part of a laboratory stress task. At encoding and retrieval, and in between, youth provided saliva samples that were later assayed for cortisol, salivary α amylase (sAA), testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Overall, higher cortisol reactivity to the lab task predicted enhanced memory for emotional but not neutral images. However, cortisol further interacted with pubertal hormones (testosterone and DHEA) to predict memory. Among girls with lower pubertal hormone levels, greater cortisol reactivity was associated with enhanced memory for negative information, whereas among boys with higher pubertal hormone levels, cortisol reactivity was associated with enhanced memory for positive information. sAA, was unrelated to memory. Overall, our findings reveal that individual differences in hormone levels associated with pubertal development have implications for our understanding of how stress-responsive biological systems directly and interactively influence cognitive outcomes. (PsycINFO Database Record

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View