Stress Interferes with Working Memory

Science's STKE  02 Nov 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 257, pp. tw396
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2572004tw396

The prefrontal cortex, located just above the eyes, is necessary for the higher order executive functions of the brain, including planning and working memory. Birnbaum et al. studied rats and monkeys performing tasks that require intact working memory. High activity of an intracellular signaling enzyme, protein kinase C (PKC), disrupted the animals' ability to remember. A cellular correlate of working memory, measured by recording neurons' electrical activity, showed this same sensitivity to high PKC. Because stress causes release of norepinephrine, a known activator of PKC, stress may exert its well-established inhibitory effect on prefrontal cognitive function through PKC.

S. G. Birnbaum, P. X. Yuan, M. Wang, S. Vijayraghavan, A. K. Bloom, D. J. Davis, K. T. Gobeske, J. D. Sweatt, H. K. Manji, A. F. T. Arnsten, Protein kinase C overactivity impairs prefrontal cortical regulation of working memory. Science 306, 882-884 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]