UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Cognitive Disengagement and Biological Stress Responses in Early Adolescence Jopling, Ellen; Tracy, Alison; LeMoult, Joelle


Individual differences in biological responses to stress increase risk for the onset and exacerbation of health and psychiatric conditions. Biases in cognitive disengagement are hypothesized to underlie these individual differences in biological responses to stress. However, no studies have examined which cognitive disengagement bias has the strongest relation with biological responses to stress, and no studies have examined this relation during early adolescence, despite evidence that this is a critical developmental window in which patterns of cognition and biological responses to stress influence trajectories of health throughout life. The current study is the first to test whether difficulty disengaging attention versus working memory from valenced stimuli is associated with biological responses to stress in early adolescence. Youth between 11 and 13 years of age completed two computer-based tasks to assess biases in attention and working memory disengagement to valenced stimuli, and then completed a standardized psychosocial stressor. Consistent with expectations, attention and working memory disengagement biases were associated with stress responses of both the neuroendocrine and autonomic nervous systems, but bias valence and cognitive system influenced the directionality of results. These findings inform our understanding of cognitive mechanisms that influence biological stress reactivity.

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