Committee Chair

Clark, Amanda J.

Committee Member

Black, Kristen Jennings, 1991-; Howell, Ashley N.; Shelton, Jill T.


Dept. of Psychology


College of Arts and Sciences


University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Place of Publication

Chattanooga (Tenn.)


This study aimed to explore the relationships among adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), working memory as assessed by an n-back task, and stress. Working memory task demands were manipulated by varying the cognitive load (1-back/3-back) and time limit (standard-paced/time-restricted), and stress was measured both subjectively via self-report and objectively via heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV). Eighty undergraduate participants completed a series of questionnaires and the n-back task while wearing a heart rate monitor. Accuracy was best in the 1-back blocks; however, ACE group differences in n-back accuracy were not detected. This study suggests that those with high ACEs had an elevated experience of subjective stress throughout the task and may have been able to adapt to this stress as reflected by greater HRV and the maintenance of similar n-back accuracy as compared to those with low ACEs.


I would first like to express my deep gratitude to my thesis chair, advisor, advocate, and mentor, Dr. Amanda Clark. Your knowledge, wisdom, and advice have played such an important role throughout all stages of this thesis. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from you and am excited to continue learning from you in the future. Thank you to my committee members, Drs. Kristen Black, Ashley Howell, and Jill Shelton for your guidance and support throughout this project. Your unique areas of expertise have complemented this project in exciting ways. I am also appreciative to have had support and guidance from classmates, professors, students, and staff, such as Angelique Cook and Judy Gallagher, throughout this thesis and my M.S. degree. Thank you, Dr. Tomorrow Arnold, for helping me to develop my research interests and continue trying to find my place in research. Thank you, Dr. Ruth Walker, for helping me to prioritize learning how to write and teach in a more accessible way. I am grateful for the current and recent members of the Assessing Cognition Lab: Lindsey Nabors, Nic Maynard, Leigh Humphrey, and Kaitlin Frazier. Thank you, Leigh and Kaitlin, for your direct involvement with the participants in this study. Leigh’s support throughout the different stages of this thesis, particularly data collection, was instrumental. I am also grateful for the recent alumni of the Assessing Cognition Lab, Melissa Materia and Jacob Robbins. Your support and encouragement have meant so much to me the past two years and I am so grateful for the examples you have set. Thank you to the UTC SEARCH Award for funding this project. I am also very grateful to have had guidance and support from Hisham Abboud with Cedrus for helping me to see my novel n-back task come to fruition in Super Lab 5. Thank you to the ten pilot participants who helped me to finalize my protocol and the 80 participants who completed this study. I am very appreciative for the patience and support of my friends and family throughout this process. Thank you, Scout, for getting me through the past few years, moving to a new state with me in pursuit of my M.S. degree, and being my favorite adventure buddy.


M. S.; A thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Science.




Adult child abuse victims--Psychology; Working memory; Stress (Psychology)


adverse childhood experiences; expanded ACEs; working memory; n-back; stress

Document Type

Masters theses




xiv, 88 leaves