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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

  • Peter Jönsson
  • Mattias Wallergård
  • Kai Osterberg
  • Hansen, Åse Marie
  • Gerd Johansson
  • Björn Karlson
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.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1397-403
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2010

    Research areas

  • Adult, Anxiety, Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena, Female, Habituation, Psychophysiologic, Heart Rate, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Male, Pilot Projects, Psychological Tests, Research Design, Stress, Psychological, User-Computer Interface, Young Adult

ID: 37473478