Active areas of the brain when making decisions in stressful conditions

This 2013 human study was of decision making under stressful conditions.

Acute stress (ice water immersion) evoked habitual behavior rather than deliberative behavior. In my view, the subjects’ behaviors when under stress were driven more by their limbic system and lower brain areas than their cerebrum.

This finding wasn’t a big surprise. However, the researchers went on to state:

“Subjects with more executive resources to spare find themselves less susceptible to the behavioral changes brought about by stress response.”

I interpreted this statement to mean that when stressed, the more-capable subjects didn’t act out as much as the less-capable subjects acted out their respective feelings, instincts and impulses.

I felt that to understand this statement called for more investigation into the individual histories of the subjects:

  • What happened in their lives that enabled each person to acquire “more executive resources” or not?
  • What happened in their lives that made each person more or less sensitive to stress?
  • How are these two avenues of investigation related?

http://www.pnas.org/content/110/52/20941.full “Working-memory capacity protects model-based learning from stress”

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