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With April comes National Stress Awareness Month, and it bears noting that different types of stress have varying effects. Where chronic stress is typically detrimental to health, acute stress may be linked to positive effects in addition to the negative counterparts. But is this trade-off worth it?

In a biological psychology experiment testing the effect of oxytocin on acute social stress, researchers found different results between men and women. Subjects underwent several stress tasks while their electrocardiography and impedance cardiography were recorded with a BIOPAC MP Research System and amplifiers. The researchers found that after being given oxytocin during the stressful event, men had less negative affect and women had greater math performance (compared to the control group).

A neurobiology study examined the effect stress had on an extinction memory process when a competing association was paired with a previously aversive cue. To test this, participants were presented with two images, one that was paired with a shock from a BIOPAC bar electrode, and one that was not. Extinction memory training immediately followed this stimulus, with extinction retrieval testing following a day later. Data gathered by a BIOPAC data acquisition system suggested significantly lower retrieval in the group that experienced the acute stress stimulus.

Another biopsychology experiment measured the effect of acute stress on pro-inflammatory cytokine levels in the blood. BIOPAC equipment was used to measure ECG while participants were given the Trier Social Stress Test. After reviewing the data and blood samples, the researchers determined that levels of the cytokine cell, interleukin-1β, increased significantly immediately after the stress test.

The physiological and psychological impacts of stress are clearly multifaceted with many potential results. In some situations, a heightened positive affect or greater analytical thinking may be beneficial. But is this boost in mental performance worth the increase of inflammatory cells and lower memory retention? As with many aspects of life, moderation is the safest answer, ensuring the negative effects do not become chronic problems.

For more information on BIOPAC’s wide range of tools for recording, displaying, and analyzing ECG measurements from human and animal subjects including respiration, heart rate variability, and RSA, visit BIOPAC’s electrocardiography pages and view BIOPAC’s full line of electrodes, amplifiers, and wearable, wireless transmitters and loggers.

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