Stress hormones in psychophysiological research: Emotional, behavioral, and cognitive implications.



In this chapter the authors discuss stress hormones, emphasizing their modulation by emotionally salient stimuli, including mental and social stressors. The authors then describe stress hormones' biological characteristics and the neural basis of their responsiveness to psychological stimulation. The authors then consider the relationship between stress hormones metabolic and circadian variations and psychologically induced changes. The authors discuss research designs to achieve maximum sensitivity to psychogenic variations. Finally, the authors comment on practical issues in the collection, handling, and storage of biological specimens for the quantification of stress hormone changes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)

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Available from: William R Lovallo, Apr 12, 2014
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    • "Participants were recruited directly by the first author and research assistants and issued kits containing a paper survey and saliva collection tubes and oral swabs (Salimetrics, State College, PA, USA). Secretion of cortisol and alpha-amylase fluctuate daily and therefore must be sampled over the course of a day, but they can be easily and non-invasively extracted from saliva (Lovallo and Thomas, 2000; Kirschbaum and Hellhammer, 2007; Nater et al., 2007; Hellhammer et al., 2009; Nater and Rohleder, 2009). Following a minimal protocol (Adam and Kumari, 2009) to maximize compliance and accommodate church services, participants were asked to collect their own saliva at prescribed times (10 AM, 2:30 PM, 6 PM and 10 PM) on Sunday (the worship day) and Monday (the non-worship day) and to complete the survey during the same week. "
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    ABSTRACT: Religious-commitment signaling is thought to indicate willingness to cooperate with a religious group. It follows that a desire to signal affiliation and reap concomitant benefits would lend itself to acting in socially desirable ways. Success or failure in such areas, especially where there is conscious intent, should correspond to proximal indicators of well-being, such as psychosocial or biological stress. To test this model, we assessed religious-commitment signaling and socially desirable responding among a sample of Pentecostals with respect to salivary biomarkers of stress and arousal. Results indicate that cortisol levels on worship and non-worship days were significantly influenced by religious-commitment signaling when moderated by impression management, a conscious form of socially desirable responding. No significant influences on salivary alpha-amylase were detected. These findings are important for understanding how religious-commitment signaling mechanisms may influence stress response when moderated by socially desirable responding and the role of communal orientation to psychosocial health.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Journal of Cognition and Culture
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    • "ANS arousal facilitates fast and diffuse reactions which are collectively known as " fight or flight " responses and include changes in physiology such as elevated heart rate and blood pressure (Cannon, 1914). ANS activation is considered a " defense reaction " (Folkow, 1985; Henry, 1993) – an active, effortful response to environmental demands that are manageable and controllable (Lovallo & Thomas, 2000; Schommer et al., 2003). Individual differences in the levels of HPA axis activity and ANS arousal can be estimated non-invasively by assessing salivary cortisol and alphaamylase (sAA) (Granger, Kivlighan, El-Sheikh, Gordis, & Stroud, 2007; Hellhammer, Kirschbaum, & Belkien, 1987; Kirschbaum & Hellhammer, 1994; Nater & Rohleder, 2009). "
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    ABSTRACT: Numerous studies link harsh discipline to adjustment problems in youth, yet not all individuals exposed to harsh discipline develop behavior problems. Contemporary theory suggests that this relationship could be moderated by individual differences in environmentally sensitive biological systems. This study investigated whether the interaction between hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) activity and autonomic nervous system (ANS) arousal moderated the link between harsh discipline and behavior problems. Three saliva samples were collected on a single day from 425 inner city youth (50% male, age 11–12 years, 80% African American) and were later assayed for cortisol (HPA) and alpha-amylase (ANS). Problem behavior was assessed by self- and parent-report using the Child Behavior Checklist. Youth also reported the level of harsh discipline that they experienced. Harsh discipline was positively associated with externalizing and internalizing problems only when there were asymmetrical profiles of HPA activity and ANS arousal. This pattern was evident for boys but not girls. Findings are discussed in relation to prevailing theories suggesting that biological susceptibility translates adversity into risk for behavior problems.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2014 · Biological Psychology
    • "As stated in the " Introduction, " evidence suggests that cortisol has an adaptive function to cope with stress (Putman and Roelofs 2011; Taylor et al. 2011): it is secreted as response to situational demands that are subjectively perceived as relevant and challenging or even threatening (Dickerson and Kemeny 2004; Lovallo and Thomas 2000). Thus, it is secreted in response to the subjective perception of situational demands; however, at the same time, cortisol also influences the subjective experience of a person: for example, cortisol was found to protect against emotional over-activation and reduces positive , as well as negative, affect after stress (Het et al. 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Rationale Stress affects flow-experience, but the mediating psychobiological mechanisms remain unknown. Previous studies showed an association between flow-experience and endogenous cortisol levels, suggesting an inverted, u-shaped relation between flow-experience and cortisol. However, these studies could not exclude effects of other stress factors. Objectives The aim of this experiment was, therefore, to test the isolated effect of cortisol on flow-experience, independent of concomitant physiological and psychological stress responses, via controlled administration of exogenous cortisol. Methods Sixty-four young healthy subjects (32 males, 32 females) participated in the experiment. According to a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over design, they received 20 mg oral cortisol on 1 day and placebo on the other day, respectively, with a time distance of 1 week between the experimental days. One hour after cortisol administration, participants engaged in the computer game Pacman. Pacman was delivered in five blocks of randomly differing difficulty levels. One block lasted 5 min. At the end of each block, participants rated flow-experience by the Flow Short Scale. Data was analyzed with hierarchical linear modeling. Subjects were not able to predict whether the pill they received contained cortisol or placebo. Results Overall, results revealed a negative effect of oral 20 mg cortisol on flow-experience, with no differences between males and females. Conclusions This study is the first to show that exogenous cortisol in a dose corresponding to a severe stressor impairs flow-experience. The observed negative effect of high cortisol dosage on experienced flow underlines recent findings of an inverted u-shaped relationship between cortisol and flow.
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