Stress induced plasticity in the hippocampal formation and the amygdaloid nuclear complex have been extensively studied. The Pre-frontal cortex is sensitive to both acute and chronic stress. Sunil reviewed recent studies on stress induced neuroplasticity in the PFC.
During a non-stressed condition, the PFC is involved in 'top-down' (lead by PFC) attention regulation. During a stress situation, there is a switch to amygdala lead 'bottom-up' attention regulation. An optimal amount of Noradrenaline and Dopamine levels in the PFC is necessary for optimal function - there is an inverted U-shaped relationship between noradrenaline levels and working memory - too low a level of Noradrenaline may not be sufficient for arousal and too much causes impaired functioning. This is due to the lower affinity of Noradrenaline to alpha-1 receptor(which suppress neuronal firing) in comparison to alpha-2 receptors(that cause enhanced firing) so that at moderate levels of noradrenaline, optimal working memory function is achieved.