Trait anxiety and post-learning stress do not affect perceptual learning
While it is well established that stress can modulate declarative learning, very few studies have investigated the influence of stress on non-declarative learning. Here, we studied the influence of post-learning stress, which effectively modulates declarative learning, on perceptual learning of a visual texture discrimination task (TDT). On day one, participants trained for one session with TDT and were instructed that they, at any time, could be exposed to either a high stressor (ice–water; Cold Pressor Test; CPT) or a low stressor (warm water). Participants did not know when or which stressor they would be exposed to. To determine the impact of the stressor on TDT learning, all participants returned the following day to perform another TDT session. Only participants exposed to the high stressor had significantly elevated cortisol levels. However, there was no difference in TDT improvements from day one to day two between the groups. Recent studies suggested that trait anxiety modulates visual perception under anticipation of stressful events. Here, trait anxiety did neither modulate performance nor influence responsiveness to stress. These results do not support a modulatory role for stress on non-declarative perceptual learning.