The capacity to respond secretion of cortisol is one of the central features of this response. Although cortisol release is critical to stress adaptation, sustained release in the face of ongoing stress may cause adverse effects. The hippocampus, a component of the brain limbic system. plays an important role in terminating the stress response. In addition, the hippocampus is involved in the regulation of emotion as well as in learning and memory. While studies of juvenile depressed patients have consistently reported increased stressful experiences. elevated cortisol secretion and memory deficits. to our knowledge, there are no studies which have examined the associations among chronic stress, cortisol secretion, and hippocampal and cognitive function. It is the goal of this study- to analyze the relationship between the size of the hippocampus. salivary and U urinary cortisol. and memory function in four groups of adolescents (namely, depressed adolescents with high-level 3 chronic s tress. depressed adolescents with low-level stress, normal adolescents with low-level stress and normal adolescents with high-level chronic stress).
Specific Aims Using a controlled design, the study aims to examine the relationships among chronic life stress, changes in the limbichypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (LHPA) system and neuropsychological function in adolescent depression. Specifically, measures of hippocampal volume, salivary and urinary cortisol, as well as memory function will be compared. We intend to test the following hypotheses: Depressed adolescents with high-level chronic stress will have: (1) decreased hippocampal volume (3) higher salivary cortisol (4) elevated urinary cortisol (5) non-verbal memory deficits compared to depressed adolescents with low-level stress and normal adolescents with low-level stress.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
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