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Current psychosocial stress, childhood trauma and cognition in patients with schizophrenia and healthy participants

Rokita, Karolina I., Dauvermann, Maria R., Mothersill, David, Holleran, Laurena, Bhatnagar, Paridhi, McNicholas, Áine, McKernan, Declan, Morris, Derek W., Kelly, John, Hallahan, Brian, McDonald, Colm and Donohoe, Gary (2021) Current psychosocial stress, childhood trauma and cognition in patients with schizophrenia and healthy participants. Schizophrenia Research, 237. pp. 115-121. ISSN 0920-9964

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Cognitive difficulties are experienced frequently in schizophrenia (SZ) and are strongly predictive of functional outcome. Although severity of cognitive difficulties has been robustly associated with early life adversity, whether and how they are affected by current stress is unknown. The present study investigated whether acute stress reactivity as measured by heart rate and mood changes predict cognitive performance in patients with schizophrenia and healthy individuals, and whether this is moderated by diagnosis and previous childhood trauma exposure.

One hundred and four patients with schizophrenia and 207 healthy participants were administered a battery of tasks assessing cognitive performance after psychosocial stress induction (Trier Social Stress Test; TSST). Mood states (Profile of Mood States; POMS) and heart rate were assessed at baseline, immediately before, and after the TSST.

Both healthy participants and patients showed increases in POMS Tension and Total Mood Disturbance scores between Time Point 2 (pre-TSST) and Time Point 3 (post-TSST). These changes were not associated with variation in cognition. Although childhood trauma exposure was associated with higher stress reactivity and poorer cognitive function in all participants, childhood trauma did not moderate the association between stress reactivity and cognition. Neither was diagnosis a moderator of this relationship.

These findings suggest that while chronic stress exposure explains significant variation in cognition, acute stress reactivity (measured by changes in Tension and Total Mood Disturbance) did not. In the context of broader developmental processes, we conclude that stressful events that occur earlier in development, and with greater chronicity, are likely to be more strongly associated with cognitive variation than acute transient stressors experienced in adulthood.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Acute stress; Trier social stress task; Childhood trauma; Cognition; Schizophrenia
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman > Children > Child Development
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > Psychology > Cognition
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > Psychology > Stress (Psychology)
Divisions: School of Business > Staff Research and Publications
Depositing User: Clara Chan
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2021 12:11
Last Modified: 11 Dec 2021 09:24

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