Title: Stress, cognition, and mental and physical health: An examination of potential mechanisms through which stress adversely affects health
Empirical work and theoretical perspectives often implicate both stress and cognitive processes in the etiology or maintenance of psychopathology and stress-related disorders. However, little work has examined how stress might work through cognitive processes to influence mental and physical health. In this talk, I present evidence suggesting that stress contributes to poor mental and physical health in part through its impairing effects on executive function and its enhancing effects on emotional memory. In addition, I show that the biological mechanisms through which stress exerts more direct effects on mental and physical health (e.g., inflammatory activity) are related to or statistically mediate the effects of stress on executive function and emotional memory, and that these cognitive processes can in turn influence biological responses to stress. Although these findings lead to some pressing questions, I have answered some of these questions in follow-up work, and I describe this follow-up work—as well as the exciting future directions in which I will take this work—before concluding. In short, these results inform a holistic understanding of the relations between stress, cognition, and hormonal and immune function, and they highlight a need to consider interactions between these factors in links between stress and mental and physical health.