Monday, January 4, 2021

Vilares' research on the impact of stress on how we process sensory information covered in Scientific Reports

Headshot of Dr. Iris Vilares
Iris Vilares, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota had her research published in Scientific Reports. In the article titled, “Bayesian decision‑making under stress‑preserved weighting of prior and likelihood information” Vilares research addresses the question of whether and how stress affects low-level decision-making, specifically looking at if stress would affect the reliance on sensory versus prior knowledge.

In the Bayesian approach, bottom-up sensory information is combined with top-down prior knowledge. It has been suggested that stress could increase the relative reliance on sensory information. To test this, the study randomly assigned participants to two groups, one exposed to a stressful manipulation and the other exposed to a non-stressful manipulation. Participants had then to guess a target’s position using current sensory information and prior knowledge such as what they knew of the location of the previous target. Contrary to their expectations, Vilares and her team did not find an effect of stress on the average reliance on sensory information in this sensory-motor task, with participants in both groups still being able to combine prior and current information in a Bayesian-optimal fashion.

Composed by Flora Pollack, communications assistant.