Cardiovascular and cortisol reactivity and habituation to a virtual reality version of the Trier Social Stress Test: a pilot study

Peter Jönsson, Mattias Wallergård, Kai Osterberg, Ase Marie Hansen, Gerd Johansson, Björn Karlson

Forskningsoutput: TidskriftsbidragArtikelPeer review


The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) is a widely used protocol to induce stress in laboratory settings. Briefly, in the TSST, the test participant is asked to hold a speech and to do an arithmetic task in front of an audience. In the present pilot study, we examined endocrine and autonomic reactivity and habituation to repeated stress provocations using a virtual reality (VR) version of TSST. The VR system was a CAVE™ system with three rear projected walls (4 m×3 m), and one floor projection. The system also included a head tracking system and passive stereoscopy. The virtual audience consisted of one woman, and two men. Ten healthy men, mean age 28.3 years (24-38 years), were confronted with the test twice (1 week between sessions), during which salivary cortisol, heart rate (HR), high frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV, parasympathetic activity), and T-wave amplitude (TWA, suggested to be related to sympathetic influence on myocardial performance) were assessed. Cortisol secretion showed a marked increase (88% vs. baseline) during the first stress provocation, but habituated in the second session. The magnitude of HR and TWA reactivity during stress provocation was approximately the same at both sessions, implying a stable increase in sympathetic activity. Heart rate showed a maximum increase of 40% at the first session, and 32% at the second. TWA showed a maximum decrease of 42% at the first session, and 39% at the second. The results resemble those obtained in prior studies using the real-life TSST. If these results can be replicated with larger samples, VR technology may be used as a simple and standardized tool for social stress induction in experimental settings.

Sidor (från-till)1397-1403
Antal sidor6
StatusPublicerad - 2010
Externt publiceradJa

Nationell ämneskategori

  • Fysiologi (30106)
  • Psykologi (501)


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