A study found memory lapses are not just the preserve of the elderly, with 14 percent of those aged between 18 and 39 worried about their recall.

London - If you can’t think straight when under pressure, it’s not your fault. A study shows that stress plays havoc with the grey cells that deal with memory.

Without them firing normally, the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex malfunctions and it can become possible to forget what we were doing just moments before, says a report in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

The experiment with rats found stress distracts the neurons affecting short term memory. Playing stressful white noise made the neurons in the rats’ brains more active but with less focus on the task in hand. Distracted rodents were much less able to complete a maze-running task than unstressed ones.

Professor Craig Berridge, who carried out the study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said: ‘It had been believed stress simply suppressed prefrontal cortex activity.

‘These studies demonstrate that rather than suppressing activity, stress modifies the nature of that activity.’ - Daily Mail