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Cortisol awakening response and spatial working memory in man: a U-shaped relationship

Lookup NU author(s): Andy Bradley, Dr Kirstie Anderson, Dr Stuart Watson, Dr Peter GallagherORCiD, Professor Hamish McAllister-WilliamsORCiD


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ObjectiveThe association between hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis function and cognition has long been investigated. An inverted U-shaped relationship has been described between various measures of HPA-axis function and neuropsychological performance in animals and man. Work with glucocorticoid receptor manipulation has corroborated these findings, with particular effects observed in relation to spatial working memory (SWM). As HPA-axis dysfunction is frequently found in patients with psychiatric illness, research in this area has potential implications for the treatment of the commonly observed cognitive impairment in such disorders. Here, we present the results of a pilot study examining the relationship between cortisol awakening response (CAR) and cognitive functions known to be susceptible to HPA-axis manipulation.MethodsNineteen healthy male volunteers were recruited, and their CAR and performance in a task of SWM were assessed.ResultsA highly significant quadratic relationship was observed between the CAR and SWM error rate (R-2=0.63, p=0.001).ConclusionWe provide novel evidence supporting the existence of an inverted U-shaped relationship between corticosteroid levels and cognitive function in humans. Copyright (c) 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Moriarty AS, Bradley AJ, Anderson KN, Watson S, Gallagher P, McAllister-Williams RH

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical & Experimental

Year: 2014

Volume: 29

Issue: 3

Pages: 295-298

Print publication date: 27/03/2014

ISSN (print): 0885-6222

ISSN (electronic): 1099-1077

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


DOI: 10.1002/hup.2399


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