Brain Mechanisms of Social Threat Effects on Working Memory

The article addresses the interaction between social and cognitive processes at a neural systems level. Social threat can have adverse effects on cognitive performance, but the brain mechanisms underlying its effects are poorly understood. The article looks at the effects of social evaluative threat on working memory (WM), a core component of many important cognitive capabilities. Social threat impaired WM performance during N-back tasks and produced widespread reductions in activations in lateral prefrontal cortex and intraparietal sulcus (IPS). Cortisol response to the stressor did not mediate WM impairment but was rather associated with protective effects.

van Ast, V.A., Spicer, J., Smith, E.E. Schmer-Galunder, S., Liberzon, I., Abelson, J.L. Abelson and Wager T. D. Brain Mechanisms of Social Threat Effects on Working Memory. Cerebral Cortex. (Sept 2014)