Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Eric Sellers

Committee Members

Wallace Dixon, Julia Dodd, Matthew McBee, David Ryan


Working memory (WM) is a crucial component of cognitive function that affects learning, reasoning, and problem solving, all of which are important for daily functioning. Therefore, addressing factors that can impact working memory, such as stress, are incredibly relevant to understanding WM efficiency. WM is an important component of higher order cognitive function and high WM capacity has been shown to be important for academic and occupational performance. Thus, understanding the relationship between stress-related factors and WM could aid in identifying strategies to mitigate the deleterious effects of stress on working memory. Although some previous research has indicated a negative impact of acute stress on WM, other research has indicated no impact or even a positive impact of stress on WM. As the relationship between acute stress and WM is mixed, examining other stress-related factors may provide further insight into the relationship. The current study examines how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and acute stress influence WM, and how frontal theta and alpha activity are affected by WM task demands. Participants completed a working memory task while their EEG was recorded. Participants then completed the PANAS to assess their current emotional state. Following the PANAS, participants viewed a stressful or neutral video as an acute stress induction, followed by a second PANAS to ensure effectiveness of stress induction. Participants then completed the WM task a second time. Finally, the participants completed the ACEs questionnaire. Bayesian linear mixed effects models were used to examine the relationships between ACEs, acute stress, WM, and frontal theta and alpha frequencies. Findings suggest there is not enough evidence to support a relationship between acute stress, ACEs, WM, and WM-related theta and alpha. While the current study did not reveal a relationship, future research should explore how acute stress and exposure to specific stressors during childhood could explain individual differences in WM.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.