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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2004 Jul;25(2):69-76.

Cortisol pulsatility and its role in stress regulation and health.

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Department of Psychiatry, The University of Michigan, USA.


One of the classic characteristics of the human stress response is the wide inter-individual variation. Although there is much current interest in the genetic and environmental contributions to these differences, studies on human subject have been sparse and characterised by methodological problems. The major factor that is rarely taken into account is the intrinsic rhythmicity of hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal activity, not simply the classic diurnal variation but also the endogenous pulsatility which is similar to, but much less well recognized than, the rhythms found within the reproductive and growth hormone axes. In this review we propose some novel ideas relating to the importance of pulsatility both for the design of human stress-response studies and for their interpretation as well as implications for our understanding of disease.

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