Prospective memory under acute stress: The role of (output) monitoring and ongoing-task demands

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review


Prospective memory (PM) refers to the ability to postpone retrieval and execution of intended actions until the appropriate situation (PM cue) has come, while engaging in other ongoing activities or tasks. In everyday live we often perform PM tasks in stressful situations. While it has been shown that acute stress does not impair PM-cue identification and intention retrieval, little is known about acute stress effects on PM performance and memory for having performed an action (output monitoring) under varying ongoing-task demands. Here we investigated this in eighty healthy participants who performed event-based PM tasks during low- and high-demanding ongoing working memory tasks after having undergone either a standardized stress induction (Maastricht Acute Stress Test) or a standardized control protocol. Successful stress induction in the stress group compared to the no-stress group was confirmed by increased salivary cortisol, an indicator of stress-related hypothalamus-pituitaryadrenal axis activity, throughout the event-based PM tasks. Nevertheless, not-only PM-cue identification but also output monitoring remained fully intact after stress induction. The absence of these effects was independent of ongoing-task demands. Nonetheless, we replicated recent findings of a stress-induced reduction in performance cost of monitoring for PM-cue occurrences. Taken together our findings suggest that acute stress alters PM monitoring by enhancing selective attention, decreasing PM response thresholds or by shifting performance towards more automatic processes in PM, while not affecting PM-cue identification and output monitoring.


Original languageEnglish
Article number107046
JournalNeurobiology of learning and memory
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

External IDs

Scopus 85069666538
ORCID /0000-0002-4823-3474/work/142247439
ORCID /0000-0002-9064-6408/work/142248855



  • Adolescent, Adult, Cues, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Episodic, Memory, Short-Term, Psychomotor Performance, Stress, Psychological/psychology, Young Adult