Cortisol response to stress in schizophrenia: associations with oxytocin, social support and social functioning
Brown, Elliot C.
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CitationTas, C., Brown, E. C., Eskikurt, G., Irmak, S., Aydın, O., Esen-Danaci, A., & Brüne, M. (2018). Cortisol response to stress in schizophrenia: associations with oxytocin, social support and social functioning. Psychiatry research, 270, 1047-1052.
Previous studies reported attenuated cortisol reactivity as one explanation for poor social functioning in schizophrenia. Recent research has demonstrated that both glucocorticoid and oxytocin systems are central to stress regulation. Here, we studied the associations between basal oxytocin, stress-induced cortisol levels, and social functioning and social support in schizophrenia. A mock job interview was used as an ecologically-valid social stressor in 32 schizophrenia patients. Blood samples were taken before and after stress induction to assess basal oxytocin and cortisol levels. In addition social functioning and social support scales were collected. Patients were divided into cortisol responders and non-responders according to percentage change following stress induction. Our findings revealed a possible subgroup of patients who did not exhibit attenuated cortisol responses. Importantly, cortisol responders had generally better social functioning, but perceived social support was not different between groups. There was also no evidence of a relationship between cortisol and oxytocin. This study highlights the heterogeneity of cortisol responses to stress in a schizophrenia population, and the importance of the relationship between social functioning and cortisol reactivity. These findings could be relevant when considering therapeutic interventions that manipulate endocrinology in order to improve real-world functioning.