Hippocampal volume as marker of daily life stress sensitivity in psychosis

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Abstract

Background

Reduced hippocampal size and increased stress sensitivity are associated with psychotic disorder and familial risk for psychosis. However, to what degree the hippocampus is implicated in daily life stress reactivity has not yet been examined. The current study investigated (i) whether familial risk (the contrast between controls, patients and siblings of patients) moderated the relationship between hippocampal volume (HV) and emotional daily stress reactivity and (ii) whether familial risk (the contrast between controls and siblings of patients) moderated the relationship between HV and cortisol daily stress reactivity.

Method

T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans were acquired from 20 patients with schizophrenia, 37 healthy siblings with familial risk for schizophrenia and 32 controls. Freesurfer 5.0.0 was used to measure HV. The experience sampling method (ESM), a structured momentary assessment technique, was used to assess emotional stress reactivity, that is the effect of momentary stress on momentary negative affect (NA). In addition, in the control and sibling groups, cortisol stress reactivity was assessed using momentary cortisol levels extracted from saliva.

Results

Multilevel linear regression analyses revealed a significant three-way interaction between group, HV and momentary stress in both the model of NA and the model of cortisol. Increased emotional stress reactivity was associated with smaller left HV in patients and larger total HV in controls. In line with the results in patients, siblings with small HV demonstrated increased emotional and cortisol stress reactivity compared to those with large HV.

Conclusions

HV may index risk and possibly disease-related mechanisms underlying daily life stress reactivity in psychotic disorder.

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