Does your voice ever sound shaky or give out during public speaking? Researchers from the University of Missouri say that stress can lead to these and other vocal issues.

Researchers analyzed 13 healthy women who were told to prepare for a 5-minute impromptu speech about why they were the best fit for a job.

The research team collected saliva samples, which they used to test levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, both before the women were given the stressful task and after they were told that they would not actually be giving a speech. Additionally, participants underwent MRI scans throughout the experiment.

Researchers saw that women with higher cortisol levels also displayed brain activity that affected the larynx, otherwise known as the voice box. This suggests that stress can trigger brain activations that impact our voice control. 

Researchers say we can try to counteract the harmful effects of stress on speech by remembering to breathe and acknowledging that feeling nervous is normal. 


Dietrich, M., Andreatta, R. D., Jiang, Y. & Stemple, J. C. (2019, May 2). Limbic and cortical control of phonation for speech in response to a public speech preparation stressor. Brain Imaging and Behavior. Retrieved from