Good vibrations: An observational study of real-life stress induced by a stage performance
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Number of pages
SourcePsychoneuroendocrinology, 114, (2020), article 104593
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Memory & Emotion
PI Group Affective Neuroscience
PI Group Statistical Imaging Neuroscience
SW OZ BSI KLP
Subject130 000 Cognitive Neurology & Memory; 220 Statistical Imaging Neuroscience; 230 Affective Neuroscience; All institutes and research themes of the Radboud University Medical Center; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment; Radboudumc 13: Stress-related disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience; Radboudumc 7: Neurodevelopmental disorders DCMN: Donders Center for Medical Neuroscience
Stressors induce physiological changes in the brain and periphery that support adaptive defensive responses. The consequences of psychological stress on cognitive functioning are often measured in laboratory settings using experimentally induced stress that leads to mainly negative subjective feelings. There is a need for verification of these studies using real-life stressors that may potentially induce both positive and negative subjective feelings. In an observational study, we investigated real-life stress induced by voluntary stage performance at a large-scale music festival, including 126 participants (60 female, age range = 16-57 years). Our primary measurements involved salivary cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, and positive and negative affect. In addition, participants completed a 2-back working memory task and a speeded decision-making task. We found that stage performance significantly increased salivary cortisol - with a particularly low number of cortisol non-responders - and heart rate, even when controlling for potential confounding factors, such as sleep, movement, and alcohol use. Interestingly, stage performance significantly decreased negative affect while increasing positive affect. This positively experienced stressor ("eustressor") was related to impaired working memory performance: the stronger the increases in cortisol, the slower participants responded to targets. Decision-making, however, was not affected. In conclusion, we show how stressful experiences in real-life can lead to positive affect, but still have a similar negative impact on cognitive functioning. We suggest that future research should focus more on the consequences of real-life stressors, and the consequences of eustress, in order to extend our understanding of the concept of psychological stress.
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