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Psychopathology – The Impacts of Stress

5. Stress and Cognition

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This fifth and final lecture focuses on how stress can affect cognition, specifically its effects on memory. Dr Tomova describes the three main stages of memory processing: encoding, consolidation and retrieval. To overcome the challenge of studying the effects of stress on just one of these memory stages, participants/subjects can be exposed to stress during only one of them. A laboratory study example of this is given as the cold pressor test (submerging one’s hand in ice water, often for an unspecified length of time). If administered during the retrieval stage of memory processing, its results demonstrate the negative effects of stress on retrieval specifically. In contrast, Cahill et al. (2003) evidenced stress improving memory performance at the encoding and consolidation stages. The final note in this lecture is highlighting that, while stress can improve encoding and consolidation, it is limited to context related to the stressor, rather than reliably improving memory of all aspects of a time or event.


In this course, Dr Livia Tomova (University of Cambridge) explores the topic of stress. The first lecture discusses the physiological stress response, detailing the key hormones, organs and neurotransmitters involved in these complicated biological processes. The second lecture looks at sources of stress and the methods researchers have used to measure someone’s stress level or response. The third lecture expands on this by outlining individual differences in people’s responses to stressful situations, focusing on the concepts of hardiness and personality types. The fourth lecture describes four key methods for coping with stress: drug therapies, cognitive behavioural therapies, biofeedback, and social support. The fifth and final lecture explores how stress can impact cognition, specifically memory processes.

Note: Dr Livia Tomova is currently looking for 16-19 year old males in the Cambridge area to take part in a research project looking at how being alone affects young people’s cognition. Click here for more information.


Dr Livia Tomova is a research associate in the Department of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, with an interest in how stress, loneliness and social isolation affect the brain and mind. Dr Tomova’s current research focuses on biological markers indicating vulnerability to the effects of isolation and loneliness in adolescents and young adults. Her recent publications include investigations into how social isolation can evoke cravings in the brain akin to the hunger response, and how acute stress can alter value representation. Dr Tomova’s other research interests include whether social media can fulfil social needs.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Tomova, L. (2021, December 03). Psychopathology – The Impacts of Stress - Stress and Cognition [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Tomova, Livia. "Psychopathology – The Impacts of Stress – Stress and Cognition." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 03 Dec 2021,

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