Cardiovascular and cortisol reactivity and habituation to a virtual reality version of the Trier Social Stress Test: a pilot study

Tidsskriftartikel - 2010

Resume

The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) is a widely used protocol to induce stress in laboratory settings. Briefly, in the TSST, the test participant is asked to hold a speech and to do an arithmetic task in front of an audience. In the present pilot study, we examined endocrine and autonomic reactivity and habituation to repeated stress provocations using a virtual reality (VR) version of TSST. The VR system was a CAVE system with three rear projected walls (4 m× 3 m), and one floor projection. The system also included a head tracking system and passive stereoscopy. The virtual audience consisted of one woman, and two men. Ten healthy men, mean age 28.3 years (24-38 years), were confronted with the test twice (1 week between sessions), during which salivary cortisol, heart rate (HR), high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV, parasympathetic activity), and T-wave amplitude (TWA, suggested to be related to sympathetic influence on myocardial performance) were assessed.Cortisol secretion showed a marked increase (88% vs. baseline) during the first stress provocation, but habituated in the second session. The magnitude of HR and TWA reactivity during stress provocation was approximately the same at both sessions, implying a stable increase in sympathetic activity. Heart rate showed a maximum increase of 40% at the first session, and 32% at the second. TWA showed a maximum decrease of 42% at the first session, and 39% at the second. The results resemble those obtained in prior studies using the real-life TSST. If these results can be replicated with larger samples, VR technology may be used as a simple and standardized tool for social stress induction in experimental settings.

Reference

Jönsson P, Wallergård M, Österberg K, Hansen ÅM, Johansson G, Karlson B. Cardiovascular and cortisol reactivity and habituation to a virtual reality version of the Trier Social Stress Test: a pilot study. Psychoneuroendocrinology 2010;35(9):1397-1403.
doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2010.04.003

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