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Behav Neurosci. 2007 Oct;121(5):871-6.

Effects of manipulating the amount of social-evaluative threat on the cortisol stress response in young healthy men.

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Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Douglas Mental Health Institute, McGill University, Montreal, PQ, Canada.


Perceived social-evaluative threat triggers the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, resulting in cortisol release. The current study examined the effects of varying the levels of social-evaluative threat on the stress response. Sixty healthy men (mean age + 23.17 +/- 3.89 years) underwent a public speaking task. Four conditions were established on the basis of panel location (inside or outside the room) and number of panelists (one or two). It was hypothesized that these variations affect salivary cortisol and physiological responses in a gradient manner. The task elicited significant cortisol and blood pressure changes for all conditions, but no difference between the groups was found, suggesting that all conditions were equally stressful. Study conclusions were that, for men, the visual presence of a panel is not necessary to elicit a cortisol response. Furthermore, increasing the number of judges does not increase the intensity of the stress response in a gradual manner, but rather seems to follow a threshold pattern. Future studies should include women and try to define the possible threshold to activate the HPA axis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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