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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Jul;95(1):197-211. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.1.197.

Neural bases of moderation of cortisol stress responses by psychosocial resources.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Psychosocial resources have been tied to lower psychological and biological responses to stress. The present research replicated this relationship and extended it by examining how differences in dispositional reactivity of certain neural structures may underlie this relationship. Two hypotheses were examined: (a) psychosocial resources are tied to decreased sensitivity to threat and/or (b) psychosocial resources are associated with enhanced prefrontal inhibition of threat responses during threat regulation. Results indicated that participants with greater psychosocial resources exhibited significantly less cortisol reactivity following a stress task, as predicted. Analyses using functional magnetic resonance imaging revealed that psychosocial resources were associated with greater right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex and less amygdala activity during a threat regulation task but were not associated with less amygdala activity during a threat sensitivity task. Mediational analyses suggest that the relation of psychosocial resources to low cortisol reactivity was mediated by lower amygdala activity during threat regulation. Results suggest that psychosocial resources are associated with lower cortisol responses to stress by means of enhanced inhibition of threat responses during threat regulation, rather than by decreased sensitivity to threat.

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