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Basal activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and cognitive function in anorexia nervosa.

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Division of Psychology, University of Northumbria at Newcastle, UK.


Anorexia nervosa is associated with abnormalities in neuroendocrine function including sustained hypercortisolism, which has been shown elsewhere to be associated with impairment of function in learning, memory and attention. Cognitive impairment has also been observed in anorexia nervosa. These effects may be mediated in part through cortisol effects on the hippocampus, which is dense with glucocorticoid receptors. We investigated the association between cortisol levels and cognitive function in anorexia nervosa by measuring both 24-hour urinary cortisol counts and performance on tasks of learning, memory and attention in patients suffering from the disorder. Cortisol secretion was shown to be significantly higher in the patient group than in a matched control group and patients were also shown to be impaired in memory and attention. However, no correlations were found between the cognitive deficits and cortisol measures. It is suggested that more sensitive profiling of cortisol levels throughout the circadian cycle may be useful in future studies of cognitive function in anorexia nervosa.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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