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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2004 Jun;1018:141-50.

Chronic stress-induced effects of corticosterone on brain: direct and indirect.

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Dept. of Physiology, Box 0444, University of California San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94143-0444, USA.


Acutely, glucocorticoids act to inhibit stress-induced corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) and adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) secretion through their actions in brain and anterior pituitary (canonical feedback). With chronic stress, glucocorticoid feedback inhibition of ACTH secretion changes markedly. Chronically stressed rats characteristically exhibit facilitated ACTH responses to acute, novel stressors. Moreover, in adrenalectomized rats in which corticosterone was replaced, steroid concentrations in the higher range are required for facilitation of ACTH responses to occur after chronic stress or diabetes. Infusion of corticosterone intracerebroventricularly into adrenalectomized rats increases basal ACTH, tends to increase CRF, and allows facilitation of ACTH responses to repeated restraint. Therefore, with chronic stressors, corticosterone seems to act in brain in an excitatory rather than an inhibitory fashion. We believe, under conditions of chronic stress, that there is an indirect glucocorticoid feedback that is mediated through the effects of the steroid +/- insulin on metabolism. Increased energy stores feedback on brain to inhibit hypothalamic CRF and decrease the expression of dopamine-beta-hydroxylase in the locus coeruleus. These changes would be expected to decrease the level of discomfort and anxiety induced by chronic stress. Moreover, central neural actions of glucocorticoids abet the peripheral effects of the steroids by increasing the salience and ingestion of pleasurable foods.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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