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Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci. 2015 Sep;10(9):1244-50. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsv016. Epub 2015 Feb 11.

Influence of menarche on the relation between diurnal cortisol production and ventral striatum activity during reward anticipation.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA and
Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA and.
Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA.


Adolescence is characterized by an increase in risk-taking and reward-seeking behaviors. In other populations, increased risk taking has been associated with tighter coupling between cortisol production and ventral striatum (VS) activation during reward anticipation; this relation has not yet been examined, however, as a function of adolescent development. This study examined the influence of pubertal development on the association between diurnal cortisol production and VS activity during reward anticipation. Pre- and post-menarcheal girls collected diurnal cortisol and completed an functional magnetic resonance imaging-based monetary incentive delay task, from which we extracted estimates of VS activity during the anticipation of reward, anticipation of loss and anticipation of non-incentive neutral trials. Post-menarcheal girls showed greater coupling between the cortisol awakening response and VS activation during anticipation of reward and loss than did their pre-menarcheal counterparts. Post-menarcheal girls did not differ from pre-menarcheal girls in their cortisol-VS coupling during anticipation of neutral trials, suggesting that puberty-related changes in cortisol-VS coupling are specific to affective stimuli. Interestingly, behavioral responses during the task indicate that post-menarcheal girls are faster to engage with affective stimuli than are pre-menarcheal girls. Thus, post-menarcheal girls exhibit neurobiological and behavioral patterns that have been associated with risk taking and that may underlie the dramatic increase in risk-taking behavior documented during adolescence.


adolescence; cortisol; reward anticipation; risk taking; ventral striatum

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