Cortisol and self-report measures of anxiety as predictors of neuropsychological performance

Shelley Leininger, Reid Skeel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Although increased anxiety and cortisol reactivity can disrupt neural activity and impact cognition, little research has evaluated associations between anxiety, cortisol, and performance on neuropsychological instruments. The current study investigated the relationship between exogenous salivary cortisol activity and self-report state anxiety on measures tapping a variety of cognitive domains. Fifty-eight male participants were randomly assigned to either a control (no stress induction) or an experimental condition simulating testing anxiety. Self-report state anxiety measures and saliva samples were jointly collected on three occasions. The experimental group generally performed worse than controls on declarative memory and working memory tests. Cortisol and self-report anxiety were not correlated. Inverse relationships were demonstrated between self-report anxiety and neuropsychological test scores. Baseline levels of cortisol at session arrival were positively associated with facilitative memory effects, though there was little association between changes in cortisol and cognitive performance. This study highlights the importance of considering the impact of anxiety during neuropsychological evaluations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-328
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Clinical Neuropsychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • Anxiety
  • Assessment
  • Learning and memory


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