Stress can help, but also hinder, performance.

Posted by on March 27, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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Stress a double-edged sword.

While stress may help your ability to recall, it also makes it more difficult for you to solve complex problems, according to Ohio State University researchers.

They gave a series of simple cognitive tests to 19 first-year medical students one to two days before the students had a regular classroom exam – a period when the students would be under a great deal of stress. The same students were given the same cognitive tests a week after the exam, when they weren’t feeling as much stress.

The study found pre-exam stress helped the students accurately recall a list of memorised numbers. But their performance was poorer on tests that required them to consider a number of possibilities in order to come up with a reasonable answer. When the students did the same tests after the exam, the results were reversed.

"Other studies have suggested that elevated stress levels can actually improve some aspects of cognition, particularly working memory," study co-author Jessa Alexander, a neurology research assistant, said in a prepared statement. "The results of the two problem-solving tests we administered suggested a decline in problem-solving abilities that required flexible thinking," Alexander said.

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