La Trobe
1195844_Wright,B_2022.pdf (611.17 kB)
Download file

Gender moderates the association between chronic academic stress with top-down and bottom-up attention

Download (611.17 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2022-03-28, 22:29 authored by Bradley WrightBradley Wright, Kira-Elise WilsonKira-Elise Wilson, Michael KingsleyMichael Kingsley, P Maruff, J Li, J Siegrist, B Horan
Research on the relationship between chronic stress and cognition is limited by a lack of concurrent measurement of state-anxiety, physiological arousal, and gender. For the first time, we assessed the impact of these factors on top-down/conscious (simple and choice reaction time) and bottom-up/reflexive (saccadic reaction time) measures of attention using CONVIRT virtual-reality cognitive tests. Participants (N = 163) completed measures of academic stress (effort-reward imbalance; ERI) and state-anxiety while heart-rate variability was recorded continuously throughout the experiment. Gender moderated the association between academic stress with the top-down measures (b = -0.002, t = -2.023, p =.045; b = -0.063, t = -3.080, p =.002) and higher academic stress was associated with poorer/slower reaction times only for male participants. For bottom-up attention, heart rate variability moderated the relationship between academic stress and saccadic reaction time (b = 0.092, t = 1.991, p =.048), and only female participants who were more stressed (i.e., ERI ≥ 1) and displayed stronger sympathetic dominance had slower reaction times. Our findings align with emerging evidence that chronic stress is related to hyperarousal in women and cognitive decrements in men. Our findings suggest that higher ERI and sympathetic dominance during cognitive testing was associated with poorer bottom-up attention in women, whereas for men, academic stress was related with poorer top-down attention irrespective of sympathovagal balance.


We acknowledge the support of the Bendigo Tertiary Education Anniversary Foundation and Holsworth Research Initiative.


Publication Date



Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics




(p. 383-395)





Rights Statement

© The Author(s) 2022 This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Usage metrics