- Impact of glucocorticoids on brain function: Relevance for mood disorders
- Volume | Issue number
- 36 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS)
Exposure to stressful situations activates two hormonal systems that help the organism to adapt. On the one hand stress hormones achieve adaptation by affecting peripheral organs, on the other hand by altering brain function such that appropriate behavioral strategies are selected for optimal performance at the short term, while relevant information is stored for reference in the future. In this chapter we describe how cellular effects induced by stress hormones - in particular by glucocorticoids - may contribute to the behavioral outcome after a single stressor. In addition to situations of acute stress, chronic uncontrollable and unpredictable stress also exerts profound effects on structure and function of limbic neurons. The impact of chronic stress is not a mere cumulative effect of what is seen after acute stress exposure. Dendritic trees are expanded in some regions but reduced in others. In general, cells are exposed to a higher calcium load upon depolarization, but show attenuated responses to serotonin. Synaptic strengthening is largely impaired. In this viewpoint we speculate how cellular effects after chronic stress may be maladaptive and could contribute to the development of psychopathology in genetically vulnerable individuals.
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