Blame Memory Lapses on Hard Work
June 22, 1999

Bone weary at times -- feeling like your memory isn't up to par? It could be you've had a hard week at work and your cortisol is at flood tide.

Cortisol, says Dr. John Newcomer of St. Louis's Washington University School of Medicine, is a hormone that can interfere with memory at times of high stress -- in short, pressing hard to get a work project done, or even cramming for an exam, can be counter-productive.

Writing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, Newcomer and his colleagues provide what experts say is the first direct evidence indicating exposure over several days to levels of cortisol associated with major stress can adversely effect the memory -- even forgetting where you put the car keys after a few wretched days at the office.

"Cortisol secretion tends to parallel how anxious an individual feels," says Newcomer. "Someone who feels confident probably will not see a significant elevation, unlike someone in a terrible panic."

(edited by David Van Alstyne)
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