PhD Summary: Bouncing Back - Trauma and the HPA-axis in Healthy Adults

Article English OPEN
Klaassens, Ellen Renée (2010)
  • Publisher: Co-Action Publishing
  • Journal: European Journal of Psychotraumatology, volume 1 (issn: 2000-8066, eissn: 2000-8198)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v1i0.5844, pmc: PMC3402002
  • Subject: trauma | cortisol | childhood trauma | HPA-axis | adults | Phd Summary | Psychiatry | resilience | RC435-571
    mesheuropmc: endocrine system | hormones, hormone substitutes, and hormone antagonists

Background: Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA)-axis is thought to underlie stressrelated psychiatric disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some studies have reported HPAaxis dysregulation in trauma-exposed (TE) adults in the absence of psychiatric morbidity. In this dissertation we set out to unravel part of the mechanism that underlies the complex relations between trauma exposure, stress regulation, and psychopathology. Method: Mentally healthy TE subjects were compared with non-trauma-exposed (NE) healthy controls. To distinguish between the potential effects of childhood trauma and adulthood trauma, we included women exposed to childhood trauma as well as men who were exposed to trauma during adulthood. Basal HPA-axis functioning was assessed with salivary cortisol samples. HPA-axis reactivity was assessed with the dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing hormone (Dex/CRH) test. Results: The results show that childhood trauma exposure is associated with an attenuated cortisol response after the Dex/CRH challenge test in women. In contrast, trauma exposure during adulthood was not associated with alterations in HPA-axis regulation after the Dex/CRH test. Neither childhood trauma nor adulthood trauma were associated with basal HPA-axis functioning. Conclusion: Childhood trauma rather than adulthood trauma may chronically affect HPA-axis functioning. Since the association between adulthood trauma and resilience to psychopathology cannot be explained by HPA-axis functioning alone, other factors must play a role. Keywords: HPA-axis; cortisol; trauma; childhood trauma; adults; resilience (Published: 31 December 2010) Citation: European Journal of Psychotraumatology Supplement 1, 2010, 1: 5844 - DOI: 10.3402/ejpt.v1i0.5844 For the abstract or full text in other languages, please see Supplementary files in the column to the right (under Reading Tools).
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