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Salivary Bioscience News

Sex hormone variations in both sexes may be important when investigating stress physiology

Sex hormones adjust “sex-specific” reactive and diurnal cortisol profiles.

Author: Author: Juster, et al (2015), Psychoneuroendocrinology

Sex differences in stress hormone functions are presumed to depend on sex hormones. And yet, surprisingly few psychoneuroendocrine studies actually assess within-sex variations of testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone when investigating sex-specific activities of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. In this methodological study of 204 healthy adults, we assessed whether cortisol profiles would differ between the sexes when unadjusted or adjusted for basal sex hormones among both sexes. Results revealed that men had higher reactive cortisol than women in unadjusted analysis, but this sex difference was attenuated when adjusting for sex hormones. While diurnal cortisol showed no sex differences in unadjusted models, adjusting for sex hormones revealed that women have higher morning cortisol. Correlations using area under the curve formulae revealed intriguing sex-specific associations with progesterone in men and testosterone in women that we propose have implications for social and affective neuroscience. In summary, our results reveal that adjusting for sex hormones alters “sex-specific” reactive and diurnal cortisol profiles.

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Keywords: Cortisol, estradiol, progesterone, sex differences, testosterone, trier social stress test

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