Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Brain Sciences






1127 (13 pp.)


Stress modulates feedback-based learning, a process that has been implicated in declining mental function in aging and mental disorders. While acute physical and psychosocial stressors have been used interchangeably in studies on feedback-based learning, the two types of stressors involve distinct physiological and psychological processes. Whether the two types of stressors differentially influence feedback processing remains unclear. The present study compared the effects of physical and psychosocial stressors on feedback-based learning. Ninety-six subjects (Mage = 19.11 years; 50 female) completed either a cold pressor task (CPT) or mental arithmetic task (MAT), as the physical or psychosocial stressor, while electrocardiography and blood pressure were measured to assess cardiovascular stress reactivity (CVR). Self-ratings on the emotional valence of the stressors were also obtained. A probabilistic learning task was given prior to and after the stressors. Accuracy in selecting positive (Go accuracy) and avoiding negative stimuli (No-go accuracy) were recorded as learning outcomes. Repeated measures ANOVA and multiple regressions were used to compare the effects of two stressors and examine the effects of CVR and valence on the learning outcomes. The results showed that although the effects of CPT and MAT on feedback processing were not different, CVR and valence influenced Go and No-go accuracy, respectively. The results suggest that stress-modulated feedback-based learning involves multiple pathways and underscore the link between CVR and reward sensitivity. The findings have clinical implications and may contribute to a better understanding of human behavioral systems.


Copyright: © 2023 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// 4.0/).

Data Availability

Article states: The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author. The data are not publicly available due to privacy concerns.

Original Publication Citation

Yang, X., Nackley, B., & Friedman, B. H. (2023). Comparison between the effects of acute physical and psychosocial stress on feedback-based learning. Brain Sciences, 13(8), Article 1127.