Stress-related research has employed several procedures to activate the human stress system. Two of the most commonly used laboratory paradigms are the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) and the Cold Pressor Test (CPT). We combined their most stressful features to create a simple laboratory stress test capable of eliciting strong autonomic and glucocorticoid stress responses. In comparison with the CPT and its variations, our stress tool (labeled the Maastricht Acute Stress Test; MAST) was found to yield superior salivary cortisol responses, while being equally effective in eliciting subjective stress reactions and (systolic and diastolic) blood pressure increases (study 1; N=80). In study 2 (N=20), we directly compared the effectiveness of the MAST and TSST and found that both methods elicited similar subjective, salivary alpha-amylase, and salivary cortisol stress responses. Finally, we developed and evaluated an appropriate no-stress control version of the MAST that was similar to the stress version, although it did not comprise stressful components (study 3; N=40). Collectively, our results confirm the effectiveness of the MAST in terms of subjective, autonomic, and--most importantly--glucocorticoid stress responses. Thus, as a brief and simple stress protocol, the MAST holds considerable promise for future research.
Smeets, T., Cornelisse, S., Quaedflieg, C. W. E. M., Meyer, T., Jelicic, M., & Merckelbach, H. (2012). Introducing the Maastricht Acute Stress Test (MAST): A quick and non-invasive approach to elicit robust autonomic and glucocorticoid stress responses. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(12), 1998-2008. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.04.012