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Horm Behav. 1995 Jun;29(2):177-90.

Social effects and circadian rhythms in squirrel monkey pituitary-adrenal activity.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Standford University School of Medicine, California 94305, USA.


Simultaneous measures of plasma cortisol and ACTH were collected at the morning peak (AM) and evening nadir (PM) of the circadian rhythm in group-housed and individually housed squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus). Pronounced AM-PM differences in cortisol were evident in both conditions, but morning measures of cortisol in monkeys housed without companions were 32% higher than baseline control values observed when the same monkeys were sampled in groups. Consistent AM-PM differences in cortisol were not associated with consistent AM-PM differences in ACTH, and for monkeys housed without companions, plasma ACTH concentrations were consistently and significantly reduced (23% lower in the morning, 42% lower in the evening). All monkeys were subsequently pretreated overnight when dexamethasone to temporarily suppress the secretion of endogenous ACTH and then challenged the following morning with a bolus injection of synthetic ACTH. Monkeys housed without companions responded to the challenge with greater, more prolonged elevations in cortisol relative to monkeys housed in groups. These observations together suggest that squirrel monkeys housed without companions hypersecrete cortisol at the morning peak of the rhythm because adrenal responsiveness to ACTH is enhanced. Low circulating ACTH levels in turn are maintained by robust glucocorticoid feedback mechanisms that inhibit the synthesis or release of pituitary ACTH.

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