Physiologic investigations of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have skewed toward assessment of the autonomic nervous system, largely neglecting hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis variables. Although these systems coordinate-suggesting a degree of symmetry-to promote adaptive functioning, most studies opt to monitor either one system or the other. Using a ratio of salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) over salivary cortisol, the present study examined symmetry between the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and HPA axis in individuals with GAD (n=71) and healthy controls (n=37). Compared to healthy controls, individuals with GAD exhibited greater baseline ratios of sAA/cortisol and smaller ratios of sAA/cortisol following a mental arithmetic challenge. We propose that the present study provides evidence for SNS-HPA asymmetry in GAD. Further, these results suggest that increased SNS suppression in GAD may be partially mediated by cortisol activity.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Biological Psychiatry