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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1997 Jan 15;807:210-8.

Psychobiological consequences of social relationships.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Delaware, Newark 19716-2577, USA.


Social separations can induce long-lasting increases in cortisol, whereas companionship can result in social buffering. Preliminary evidence from studies of squirrel monkeys suggests that social separation-induced hypersecretion of cortisol is initially driven by hypersecretion of ACTH. From 1-21 days postseparation, however, cortisol remains elevated above pre-separation controls, while ACTH levels are consistently reduced. Hypercortisolism is maintained despite reductions in ACTH, because adrenal responsiveness to ACTH is enhanced. Low circulating ACTH, in turn, is maintained by robust feedback mechanisms that apparently inhibit biosynthesis or release of pituitary ACTH. These findings are consistent with neuroendocrine interactions known or hypothesized to occur during major depressive disorders in humans and raise unique possibilities for comparative research in human and nonhuman primates.

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