Neurobiological Mechanisms of Stress and Glucocorticoid Effects on Learning and Memory: Implications for Stress Disorders on Earth and in Space

  • Raquel V. Fornari
  • Amanda Aerni
  • Dominique J.-F. de Quervain
  • Benno RoozendaalEmail author


Space flight represents an extremely stressful condition, and maintaining intact cognitive performance is a high priority for space exploration. Over the last decades, considerable evidence has accumulated indicating that glucocorticoids—stress hormones released from the adrenal cortex—are crucially involved in the regulation of memory functions. Specifically, glucocorticoids have been shown to enhance memory consolidation of emotionally arousing, stressful experiences, but to impair memory retrieval and working memory during emotionally arousing situations. Here, we review findings from both animal and human experiments and present an integrated perspective of how these opposite glucocorticoid effects might act together to serve adaptive processing of emotionally significant information. Furthermore, as aberrant processing of stressful experiences and intense emotional memories also play a crucial role in the pathogenesis and symptomatology of anxiety disorders, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, we discuss to what extent the basic findings on glucocorticoid effects on emotional memory might have implications for the understanding and treatment of this clinical condition. The reviewed findings might have important implications regarding the regulation of stress effects on memory and the occurrence of psychological and other health problems in space travelers.



The authors and publisher gratefully acknowledge the permission to reproduce the copyright material (i.e. text extracts and figures from (de Quervain et al. 2009), Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology, Elsevier Inc.) in this book.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Raquel V. Fornari
    • 1
  • Amanda Aerni
    • 2
  • Dominique J.-F. de Quervain
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Benno Roozendaal
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Centro de Matemática, Computação e CogniçãoUniversidade Federal do ABCSão Bernardo do CampoBrazil
  2. 2.Division of Cognitive Neuroscience, Department of PsychologyUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Transfaculty Research PlatformUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  4. 4.University Psychiatric ClinicsUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  5. 5.Department of Cognitive NeuroscienceRadboud University Medical CenterNijmegenThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and BehaviourRadboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands

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