Cortisol, Emotions and Cognition in Sport Performance–How does cortisol influence Performance?



In our competitive society performing well is one of the most essential factors in order to be successful for example during an oral exam or a sport competition. However performing well can be critical, particularly in stressful situations. One physiological reaction to stress is an increase in cortisol (e.g., Buchanan, al'Absi, & Lovallo, 1999). So far, cortisol has mainly been used as a passive marker, indicating how objectively stressed athletes are, for example during their first day of a competition (e.g., Filaire, Alix, Ferrand, & Verger, 2009). The first experimentally controlled study showing a link between cortisol and sports performance focused on a particular performance parameter (i.e., the second tennis serve) and found a negative correlation between cortisol and service performance was found (Lautenbach, Laborde, Achtzehn, & Raab, 2014), providing first preliminary evidence for a cortisol-performance relationship. A possible underlying mechanisms explaining the cortisol-performance relationship can be found by turning to executive functions (e.g., selective attetion; Diamond, 2012). It is generally accepted that cortisol has an impact on cognitive functions (e.g., Suay & Salvador, 2012) because it passes the blood-brain barrier and glucocorticoid receptors are to be found with an augmented appearance particularly in the prefrontal cortical structures (Putman & Berling, 2011), responsible for higher cognitive functions and thus, sensitive to cortisol changes. Within this line of reserach, I try to answer the question of how cortisol can influence performance.


Hormonal markers (i.e., cortisol)
Heart rate variability (HRV)
Stress induction protocoles (e.g., psycho-social: TSST, TSST-G; physical: cold pressor task)
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