Background: Non-human primate models have been useful in clarifying estradiol‘s role in cognitive processing. These animal studies indicate estradiol impacts cognitive processes supported by regions within dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Although human functional neuroimaging studies have begun to find similar relationships between estradiol in women for some forms of ‘cold’ cognitive control, to date no studies have examined the relationship between estradiol and DLPFC function in the context of active attempts to regulate one’s emotions. Here, we asked whether peripheral 17-beta estradiol levels in adolescent girls in different pubertal developmental stages (age = 14.9 years ± 1.74) were related to engagement of DLPFC regions during the use of a cognitive strategy for regulating emotion known as reappraisal using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Findings indicated that higher estradiol levels predicted greater DLPFC activity during the down-regulation of negative emotion using reappraisal. This is the first report of an association between estradiol level and DLPFC activity during cognitive reappraisal of negative emotion. The study suggests a possibility that estradiol might positively contribute to regulatory function of a cortical system important for emotional experiences.
Stress physiology and memory for emotional information: Moderation by individual differences in pubertal hormones.
In contrast to a large body of work concerning the effects of physiological stress reactivity on children’s socioemotional functioning, far less attention has been devoted to understanding the effects of such reactivity on cognitive, including mnemonic, functioning. How well children learn and remember information under stress has implications for a range of educational, clinical, and legal outcomes. We evaluated 8-14 year olds’ (N = 94, 50 female) memory for negative, neutral, and positive images. Youth had seen the images a week previously as a part of a laboratory stress task. At encoding and retrieval, and in between, youth provided saliva samples that were later assayed for cortisol, salivary α amylase (sAA), testosterone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Overall, higher cortisol reactivity to the lab task predicted enhanced memory for emotional but not neutral images. However, cortisol further interacted with pubertal hormones (testosterone and DHEA) to predict memory. Among girls with lower pubertal hormone levels, greater cortisol reactivity was associated with enhanced memory for negative information, whereas among boys with higher pubertal hormone levels, cortisol reactivity was associated with enhanced memory for positive information. sAA, was unrelated to memory. Overall, our findings reveal that individual differences in hormone levels associated with pubertal development have implications for our understanding of how stress-responsive biological systems directly and interactively influence cognitive outcomes.
The hippocampal response to psychosocial stress varies with salivary uric acid level.
Uric acid is a naturally occurring, endogenous compound that impacts mental health. In particular, uric acid levels are associated with emotion-related psychopathology (e.g., anxiety and depression). Therefore, understanding uric acid’s impact on the brain would provide valuable new knowledge regarding neural mechanisms that mediate the relationship between uric acid and mental health. Brain regions including the prefrontal cortex, amygdala, and hippocampus underlie stress reactivity and emotion regulation. Thus, uric acid may impact emotion by modifying the function of these brain regions. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) during a psychosocial stress task to investigate the relationship between baseline uric acid levels (in saliva) and brain function. Results demonstrate that activity within the bilateral hippocampal complex varied with uric acid concentrations. Specifically, activity within the hippocampus and surrounding cortex increased as a function of uric acid level. The current findings suggest that uric acid levels modulate stress-related hippocampal activity. Given that the hippocampus has been implicated in emotion regulation during psychosocial stress, the present findings offer a potential mechanism by which uric acid impacts mental health.