The cortisol awakening response and memory performance in older men and women

Mercedes Almela*, Leander van der Meij, Vanesa Hidalgo, Carolina Villada, Alicia Salvador

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


The activity and regulation of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis has been related to cognitive decline during aging. This study investigated whether the cortisol awakening response (CAR) is related to memory performance among older adults. The sample was composed of 88 participants (44 men and 44 women) from 55 to 77. years old. The memory assessment consisted of two tests measuring declarative memory (a paragraph recall test and a word list learning test) and two tests measuring working memory (a spatial span test and a spatial working memory test). Among those participants who showed the CAR on two consecutive days, we found that a greater CAR was related to poorer declarative memory performance in both men and women, and to better working memory performance only in men. The results of our study suggest that the relationship between CAR and memory performance is negative in men and women when memory performance is largely dependent on hippocampal functioning (i.e. declarative memory), and positive, but only in men, when memory performance is largely dependent on prefrontal cortex functioning (i.e. working memory).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1929-1940
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Cortisol
  • Cortisol awakening response (CAR)
  • Declarative memory
  • Hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis
  • Middle-aged
  • Older adults
  • Sex differences
  • Working memory


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