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July 2021

Modelling a loss event: effect of imagined bereavement on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis

Author(s): Bhagwagar, Z., Smith, K. A., Goodwin, G. M., Cowen, P. J.

Journal/Book: Psychol Med. 2000; 30: 219-23.

Abstract: BACKGROUND: Loss events are the stressors most closely associated with the onset of depressive illnesses. The acute cortisol response to loss has been little studied although it could be an important mediator of the effects of environmental stress on psychological state. METHODS: The salivary cortisol response to an established negative mood induction procedure involving music and an imagined bereavement was measured in 30 healthy volunteers. RESULTS: Considerable but transient mood lowering in response to the negative mood induction was associated with a small increase in cortisol output over 30 min. CONCLUSIONS: This procedure has some potential as a tool to investigate individual differences in the neuroendocrine response to loss events, but this is limited. There remains a need for laboratory models of relevant psychosocial stressors in mood disorders research.

Keyword(s): Adult. Affect. Bereavement. Female. Human. Hydrocortisone/analysis. Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System/physiology. Imagination. Male. Middle Age. Models, Psychological. Pituitary-Adrenal System/physiology. Saliva/chemistry. Stress, Psychological/physiopathology. Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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