Cortisol and ACTH Responses to the Dex/CRH Test: Influence of Temperament

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Cortisol and ACTH Responses to the Dex/CRH Test: Influence of Temperament

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Title: Cortisol and ACTH Responses to the Dex/CRH Test: Influence of Temperament
Author: Tyrka, Audrey M.; Wier, Lauren M.; Price, Lawrence H.; Rikhye, Kobita; Ross, Nicole S.; Anderson, George M.; Carpenter, Linda L.; Wilkinson, Charles M.
Abstract: Temperament and personality traits such as neuroticism and behavioral inhibition are prospective predictors of the onset of depression and anxiety disorders. Exposure to stress is also linked to the development of these disorders, and neuroticism and inhibition may confer or reflect sensitivity to stressors. Several lines of research have documented hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal (HPA) axis in some patients with major depression, as well as in children and non-human primates with inhibited temperaments. The present investigation tested the hypothesis that stressreactive temperaments would be predictive of plasma adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol concentrations in the dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing hormone (Dex/CRH) test. Sixty adults completed diagnostic interviews and questionnaires assessing the temperament domains of novelty seeking and harm avoidance and symptoms of anxiety and depression. All subjects were free of any current or past Axis I psychiatric disorder. The Dex/CRH test was performed on a separate visit. A repeated measures general linear model (GLM) showed a main effect of harm avoidance in predicting cortisol concentrations in the test (F(1, 58) = 4.86, p < .05). The GLM for novelty seeking and cortisol response also showed a main effect (F(1, 58) = 5.28, p <.05). Higher cortisol concentrations were associated with higher levels of harm avoidance and lower levels of novelty seeking. A significant interaction of time with harm avoidance and novelty seeking (F(4, 53) = 3.37, p < .05) revealed that participants with both high levels of harm avoidance and low levels of novelty seeking had the highest cortisol responses to the Dex/CRH test. Plasma ACTH concentrations did not differ as a function of temperament. The results indicate that temperament traits linked to sensitivity to negative stimuli are associated with greater cortisol reactivity during the Dex/CRH test. Increased adrenocortical reactivity, which previously has been linked to major depression and anxiety disorders, may contribute to the association between temperament/personality traits and these disorders. *

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