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Effects of cortisol on cognition in major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder - 2014 Curt Richter Award Winner

Effects of cortisol on cognition in major depressive disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder - 2014 Curt Richter Award Winner

Psychoneuroendocrinology 51: 282-295

Stress hormones influence a wide range of cognitive functions, including memory performance and executive function. It is well established that glucocorticoids enhance memory consolidation but impair memory retrieval. While most of the effects have been attributed to glucocorticoid receptors (GR), the importance of mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) has been also emphasized. Dysfunctions in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis have been reported for several mental disorders. While major depressive disorder (MDD) as well as borderline personality disorder (BPD) seem to be characterized by enhanced cortisol release in concert with a reduced feedback sensitivity of the HPA axis, in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) a contrary picture has been reported. Despite the fact that altered GR function has been discussed for these disorders only very few studies have investigated the effects of glucocorticoids on cognitive performance in these patients so far. In a series of studies, we investigated the effects of glucocorticoids on cognition (i.e. declarative memory, working memory and response inhibition) in different mental disorders such as MDD, PTSD and BPD. While in patients with MDD cortisol administration failed to effect memory retrieval, patients with PTSD and BPD showed enhanced rather than impaired memory retrieval after cortisol administration. These results indicate an altered sensitivity to cortisol in these disorders. Results from one of our recent studies in the field of social cognition underline the importance of the MR. We found that emotional empathy was enhanced through stimulation of the MR via fludrocortisone in healthy participants and women with BPD. This review aims to integrate these findings and discuss potential mechanisms and implications.

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Accession: 057726424

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PMID: 25462901

DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.10.009

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