Rapid Effects of Cortisol on Cognitive Functions in Humans

Responsible: Dr. Thomas M. Schilling, Dipl.-Psych.

Stress evokes a wide range of physiological and cognitive changes in the body. One of the most prominent reactions is the increase in the release of the “stress hormone” cortisol. In the traditional view, cortisol is assumed to promote slow and long lasting adjustments to stress, mediated by changes in gene expression. However, recent evidence shows that cortisol influences physiological and cognitive functions also via rapid, nongenomic mechanisms - suggesting that cortisol may affect adaption to stress while the organism is still facing the stressor (e.g. a predator, attacking rival). My own research focusses on such rapid effects of cortisol on cognitive functions in humans. More specific, I am interested in how stress and cortisol rapidly alter the multisensory integration of danger cues.