Doctor of Philosophy, University of Michigan Ann Arbor (2009)
Ruth O'Hara, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Corticosteroid impacts on neural correlates of emotion. My research focuses on harnessing what we learn from neuroimaging studies in psychiatric populations and from studying healthy people to improve and develop novel/add-on therapeutic techniques for the treatment of depression.
Separate bodies of literature report that elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines and cortisol negatively affect hippocampal structure and cognitive functioning, particularly in older adults. Although interactions between cytokines and cortisol occur through a variety of known mechanisms, few studies consider how their interactions affect brain structure. In this preliminary study, we assess the impact of interactions between circulating levels of IL-1Beta, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, TNF-alpha, and waking cortisol on hippocampal volume. Twenty-eight community-dwelling older adults underwent blood draws for quantification of circulating cytokines and saliva collections to quantify the cortisol awakening response. Hippocampal volume measurements were made using structural magnetic resonance imaging. Elevated levels of waking cortisol in conjunction with higher concentrations of IL-6 and TNF-alpha were associated with smaller hippocampal volumes. In addition, independent of cortisol, higher levels of IL-1beta and TNF-alpha were also associated with smaller hippocampal volumes. These data provide preliminary evidence that higher cortisol, in conjunction with higher IL-6 and TNF-alpha, are associated with smaller hippocampal volume in older adults. We suggest that the dynamic balance between the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis and inflammation processes may explain hippocampal volume reductions in older adults better than either set of measures do in isolation.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00153
View details for PubMedID 25071562
Early adversity is a strong and enduring predictor of psychiatric disorders including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse or dependence, and posttraumatic stress disorder. However, the mechanisms of this effect are not well understood. The purpose of this review is to summarize and integrate the current research knowledge pertaining to the long-term effects of early adversity on psychiatric disorders, particularly in late life. We explore definitional considerations including key dimensions of the experience such as type, severity, and timing of adversity relative to development. We then review the potential biological and environmental mediators and moderators of the relationships between early adversity and psychiatric disorders. We conclude with clinical implications, methodological challenges and suggestions for future research.
View details for DOI 10.1007/s11920-013-0352-9
View details for PubMedID 23443532
The glucocorticoid hormone cortisol is known to have wide-ranging effects on a variety of physiological systems, including the morphology and physiology of the amygdala and hippocampus. Disruptions of cortisol regulation and signaling are also linked with psychiatric disorders involving emotional disturbances. Although there is much evidence to suggest a relationship between cortisol signaling and the brain physiology underlying emotion, few studies have attempted to test for direct effects of cortisol on the neurophysiology of emotion. We administered exogenous synthetic cortisol (hydrocortisone, HCT) using two different dosing regimens (25 mg/day over 4 days, 100 mg single dose), in a double-blind placebo-controlled functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study. During fMRI scanning, healthy subjects viewed images designed to induce happy, sad, and neutral emotional states. Subjective emotional reactions were collected for each experimental stimulus after fMRI scanning. Mood ratings were also collected throughout the 4 days of the study. Both dose regimens of HCT resulted in decreased subgenual cingulate activation during sadness conditions. The 25 mg/day regimen also resulted in higher arousal ratings of sad stimuli. No effects of HCT were observed on any mood ratings. Few reliable effects of HCT were observed on brain activity patterns or subjective emotional responses to stimuli that were not sad. The inhibitory effects of cortisol on sadness-induced subgenual cingulate activity may have critical relevance to the pathophysiology of major depression, as both subgenual hyperactivity and decreased sensitivity to cortisol signaling have been documented in patients with depression.
View details for DOI 10.1038/npp.2012.249
View details for Web of Science ID 000316161300012
View details for PubMedID 23303057