Coordination of cortisol response to social evaluative threat with autonomic and inflammatory responses is moderated by stress appraisals and affect

Heidemarie K. Laurent, Todd Lucas, Jennifer Pierce, Stefan Goetz, Douglas A. Granger

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21 Scopus citations


Recent approaches to stress regulation have emphasized coordination among multiple biological systems. This study builds on evidence that hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity should be considered in coordination with other stress-sensitive biological systems to characterize healthy responses. Healthy African-Americans (n = 115) completed the Trier Social Stress Test, and biological responses were assessed through salivary cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), alpha amylase (sAA), and C-reactive protein (sCRP). Multilevel modeling demonstrated that cortisol responses typically aligned with changes in DHEA-S, sAA, and sCRP across the session. At the same time, the degree of cortisol coordination with sAA and sCRP varied by participants' subjective stress following the task; participants with higher secondary stress appraisals showed greater cortisol-sAA alignment, whereas those experiencing more negative affect showed greater cortisol-sCRP alignment. Results highlight the importance of a multisystem approach to stress and suggest that positive HPA axis coordination with the autonomic response, but not with the immune/inflammatory response, may be adaptive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-24
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Psychology
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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