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We are all intuitively aware that when we are under stress, we think differently and often less well than when we are calmer. The study by Chiapelli et al1 in this issue of the journal addresses some of the critical links underlying the effects of stress on cognition. In particular, their study highlights the effects of stress on circulating kynurenic acid (KYNA) levels in patients with schizophrenia, as measured in saliva, and the interaction of KYNA with persistence during cognitive testing. The main findings of the study1 are (1) that schizophrenic patients as a group showed increased KYNA levels when performing stress-inducing cognitive tasks and (2) that the higher levels of KYNA were associated with an increased likelihood of terminating the tasks early, an effect termed distress intolerance.
Javitt DC. Distress Intolerance, Kynurenic Acid, and Schizophrenia. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):749-750. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.518