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Low Cortisol and Risk and Resilience to Stress-Related Psychiatric Disorders

      A number of both preclinical and clinical studies have investigated the long-term effects of exposure to stressful or traumatic life events on the regulation of the stress hormone system. In this issue of Biological Psychiatry, Lovallo et al. (
      • Lovallo W.R.
      • Farag N.H.
      • Sorocco K.H.
      • Cohoon A.J.
      • Vincent J.
      Lifetime adversity leads to blunted stress axis reactivity: studies from the Oklahoma Family Health Patterns Project.
      ) present data from the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a standardized psychological stressor, performed in more than 350 healthy young adults. The authors observed that exposure to adverse life events was associated with a blunted cortisol and heart rate response to the stress task. Specifically, lower endocrine and cardiac responses were associated with separation or loss of a parent before age 15 years but not with life time exposure to physical or sexual abuse or violence. In this commentary, we will focus on the endocrine results of this study and how they may relate to risk and resilience to mood and anxiety disorders.
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