This study examined changes in physiological response to a mental stressor and its effect on emotion processing in previously head-injured collegiate athletes. Athletes in the post-concussion phase may have decreased stress coping mechanisms creating difficulties in the ability to respond to emotional, especially negative, stimuli due to symptoms of depression and anxiety. The emotional Stroop task was used to identify emotion processing differences in response to emotion-type (negative and positive) words compared to neutral words. To induce stress, the mental arithmetic task was used, and participants were monitored for heart rate and skin temperature changes. Results demonstrated a significant effect of stress on response times and accuracy scores in the emotional Stroop task. Interference scores also significantly increased following stress, showing greater interference on positive words. The lack of a difference between concussed and control college students might indicate that affective dysregulation, caused by the consistent stresses of college makes these groups more similar than expected. In addition, the group of concussed athletes had a range of quantity and severity of concussion, which may have impacted the results and should be considered more directly in the future. Monitoring athletes after recovery will not only be important in the prevention of a second injury, but also in identifying nondisclosed symptoms following a potential second injury.


Stavnezer, Amy Jo




Cognitive Neuroscience


post-concussion syndrome, acute stress, Stroop task, athlete, coping, concussion, depression

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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