Cardiovascular and neuroendocrine adjustment to public speaking and mental arithmetic stressors

Mustafa Al'Absi, Stephan Bongard, Tony Buchanan, Gwendolyn A. Pincomb, Julio Licinio, William R. Lovallo

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340 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we evaluated cardiovascular, neuroendocrine, and psychological adjustment to repeated presentations of a public speaking and a mental arithmetic task. Brief versions of mental arithmetic tasks have been used widely in previous reactivity studies, and growing attention to more socially salient tasks has led to the increased use of public speaking tasks. However, psychophysiological adjustment during extended and repeated exposure to these tasks has not been delineated. In the present study, 52 healthy men worked on three 8-min presentations of public speaking and of mental arithmetic in a repeated measure design. Both tasks produced substantial cardiovascular, adrenocorticotropic hormone, and cortisol responses; public speaking produced greater changes. Repeated presentations of public speaking produced a stable pattern of cardiac activation, whereas repetitions of the mental arithmetic initially produced large cardiac responses that changed to a more vascular tonus across task periods. Both tasks increased negative moods. However, correlations between the endocrine, cardiovascular, and negative moods were significant only during the public speaking stressor. The public speaking task is a socially relevant experimental protocol for studying reactivity in the laboratory setting and elicits relatively high, stable, and homogeneous responses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)266-275
Number of pages10
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 May 1997


  • ACTH
  • Blood pressure
  • Cortisol
  • Hemodynamic adjustment
  • Interpersonal stress
  • Public speaking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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