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Relationship between cortisol reactivity to psychosocial stress and declarative memory decline during aging: Impact of age and sex

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Geriatrics and Gerontology International

Published online on


Aim To analyze the relationship between memory performance and the neuroendocrine and cardiovascular response to acute psychosocial stress in healthy older people, and the sex and age impact in this relationship. Methods We randomly selected 100 literate older adults, without cognitive or functional impairment. The neuroendocrine stress response was evaluated by measuring the concentration of salivary cortisol, whereas cardiovascular reactions were determined based on blood pressure and heart rate measures taken before, during and after participant exposure to an acute psychosocial stressor ( the Trier social stress test [TSST]). Memory performance was evaluated by applying the word pairs test before and after the TSST. Results A significant reduction in the word pair test scores was observed after the TSST, and a negative correlation between cortisol concentration and immediate and delayed recall of the word pair. Cortisol concentration associated with age, sex and education explained memory performance variability before and after the TSST. Conclusions The results showed that the influence of acute stress on memory performance during aging might vary according to age and sex, highlighting potential differences in the vulnerability of older individuals to the neurotoxic effects of stress exposure on memory and consequently on the development of cognitive disorders. Geriatr Gerontol Int 2017; ••: ••–••.