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Biol Psychiatry. 2003 Nov 15;54(10):1118-21.

Cortisol levels are positively correlated with hippocampal N-acetylaspartate.

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  • 1Mental Health Service, San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, California 94121, USA.



This study examined the relationship of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal measures and hippocampal N-acetylaspartate (NAA) in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients and control subjects.


Eleven patients with combat-related PTSD and 11 control subjects were evaluated with magnetic resonance spectroscopy as well as by morning salivary cortisol samples before and after administration of low-dose dexamethasone (.5 mg).


Left hippocampal NAA was strongly associated with both pre-dexamethasone cortisol levels (n = 22, r =.53, p =.013) and post-dexamethasone cortisol levels (n = 22, r =.63, p =.002). After accounting for clinical symptom severity and hippocampal volume, cortisol levels accounted for 21.9% of the variance (F = 5.6, p =.004) in left hippocampal NAA and 12.6% of the variance (F = 3.2, p =.035) in right hippocampal NAA.


This study shows a positive relationship between cortisol levels and hippocampal NAA in subjects without hypercortisolemia. Within the range of values seen in our subjects, cortisol may have a trophic effect on the hippocampus.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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