Idle behaviors of the hippocampus reflect endogenous cortisol levels in youth

Moriah E. Thomason, Maria A. Tocco, Kelly A. Quednau, Andrea R. Bedway, Justin M. Carré

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Compelling evidence indicates that disruption in functional connectivity (FC) in brain networks underlies many psychiatric and developmental disorders. Current theory posits that biological (i.e., cortisol) and environmental (i.e., stress) experiences in early life are strong determinants in the development of functional brain systems and formative in the genesis of such disorders. The objective of this study was to examine the extent to which individual differences in cortisol concentrations during FC magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) would map onto variability in hippocampal to default mode network (DMN) connectivity in typically developing youth. Method: Salivary cortisol and FC MRI data were collected concurrently in 33 scan-naive 7- to 15-year-old participants. Twenty-nine of these participants previously completed the Trier Social Stress Test. Hippocampal to DMN FC and endogenous cortisol variability during MRI were examined. A possible association between MRI cortisol and cortisol response to the Trier Social Stress Test during the preceding visit or a participant's ratings of anxiety during MRI was tested. Results: There were significant positive relations between MRI cortisol levels and measurements in the following 3 areas: hippocampal to DMN FC during the resting state, cortisol levels during the Trier Social Stress Test, and fear/anxiety ratings during MRI. Fear/anxiety ratings during MRI also related to self-reported anxiety on standardized measurements. Conclusions: This study shows for the first time that FC of the hippocampus is altered with changing cortisol responsivity in youth. Altered FC during the resting state may represent altered alertness or monitoring resulting from variation in glucocorticoid function in youth, which carries implications for the effect of stress on response monitoring and decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-652.e1
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • cortisol
  • default mode
  • functional connectivity
  • hippocampus
  • resting state


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