Neural Correlates of the Cortisol Awakening Response in Humans.

Neuropsychopharmacology

PubMedID: 25781268

Boehringer A, Tost H, Haddad L, Lederbogen F, Wüst S, Schwarz E, Meyer-Lindenberg A. Neural Correlates of the Cortisol Awakening Response in Humans. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015;.
The cortisol rise after awakening (cortisol awakening response, CAR) is a core biomarker of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis regulation related to psychosocial stress and stress-related psychiatric disorders. However, the neural regulation of the CAR has not been examined in humans. Here, we studied neural regulation related to the CAR in a sample of 25 healthy human participants using an established psychosocial stress paradigm together with multimodal functional and structural (voxel-based morphometry) magnetic resonance imaging. Across subjects, a smaller CAR was associated with reduced grey matter volume and increased stress-related brain activity in the perigenual ACC, a region which inhibits HPA axis activity during stress that is implicated in risk mechanisms and pathophysiology of stress-related mental diseases. Moreover, functional connectivity between the perigenual ACC and the hypothalamus, the primary controller of HPA axis activity, was associated with the CAR. Our findings provide support for a role of the perigenual ACC in regulating the CAR in humans and may aid future research on the pathophysiology of stress-related illnesses, such as depression, and environmental risk for illnesses such as schizophrenia. Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 17 March 2015. doi:10. 1038/npp. 2015. 77.