Carnegie Mellon University

Stress Reactivity (PCS3)

PCS3 included two laboratory acute stress-reactivity and recovery sessions designed to evaluate psychological, cardiovascular and cortisol responses to a laboratory challenge task.  Session 1 took place 2-4 weeks prior to viral challenge, and session 2 took place 4-6 weeks post-challenge. Each session lasted about 2 1/4 hours, and was conducted between the hours of 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. to control for diurnal variations in cortisol.   The sessions took place at the University of Pittsburgh.

During the sessions, participants completed a modified version of the Trier Social Stress Test1, a well-validated and widely used acute stress protocol that lasts 15 minutes and involves a simulated public speaking task followed by a mental arithmetic task. Throughout the session, psychological measures (stress, anxiety, mood, emotional response to the task) and biological measures (salivary cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, heart rate variability) were taken.

More detailed information on the specific measurements that were taken throughout the sessions can be found by clicking on the measure names listed in the table below.

Category Measure
Physiologic Reactivity
Blood pressure
Heart rate
Heart rate variability
    Endocrine Cortisol, salivary
Psychological Reactivity
    State Affect Stress Reactivity Questionnaire (SRQ)
    Emotional Response Emotional Response to Stress Questionnaire (ERSQ)
    Rumination Rumination Measure (RM)
Resting Biological Activity
    Cardiovascular Blood pressure and heart rate
    Cardiovascular Heart rate variability


1 Kirschbaum, C., Pirke, K.-M., & Hellhammer, D. H. (1993). The ‘Trier Social Stress Test’ – A tool for investigating psychobiological stress responses in a laboratory setting. Neuropsychobiology, 28, 76-81.