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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016 Jan;63:282-90. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.012. Epub 2015 Oct 24.

Sex hormones adjust "sex-specific" reactive and diurnal cortisol profiles.

Author information

1
Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Research Centre, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
2
Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Research Centre, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Department of Neuroscience, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
3
Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Research Centre, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Department of Psychology, Université du Québec à Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
4
Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
5
Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Research Centre, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
6
Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Research Centre, Douglas Mental Health University Institute, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
7
Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Research Centre, Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Department of Psychiatry, Université de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Electronic address: sonia.lupien@umontreal.ca.

Abstract

Sex differences in stress hormone functions are presumed to depend on sex hormones. And yet, surprisingly few psychoneuroendocrine studies actually assess within-sex variations of testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone when investigating sex-specific activities of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. In this methodological study of 204 healthy adults (60 men), we assessed whether cortisol profiles would differ between the sexes when unadjusted or adjusted for basal sex hormones among both sexes. Reactive cortisol was sampled using 6 saliva samples measured every 10-min as part of the Trier Social Stress Test that generally activates cortisol among men more than women. Diurnal cortisol was sampled over two days at (1) awakening, (2) 30-min thereafter, (3) 1400 h, (4) 1600 h, and (5) bedtime. Sex hormones were collected at baseline before the psychosocial stressor and on two occasions during diurnal cortisol assessment. Repeated-measures analysis of covariance controlled for key covariates in analyses unadjusted or adjusted for sex hormones. Results revealed that men had higher reactive cortisol than women in unadjusted analysis, but this sex difference was attenuated when adjusting for sex hormones. While diurnal cortisol showed no sex differences in unadjusted models, adjusting for sex hormones revealed that women have higher morning cortisol. Correlations using area under the curve formulae revealed intriguing sex-specific associations with progesterone in men and testosterone in women that we propose have implications for social and affective neuroscience. In summary, our results reveal that adjusting for sex hormones alters "sex-specific" reactive and diurnal cortisol profiles.

KEYWORDS:

Cortisol; Estradiol; Progesterone; Sex differences; Testosterone; Trier Social Stress Test

PMID:
26539966
DOI:
10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.10.012
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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