The Relation of Cortisol Levels with Pubertal Development in Youth at Clinical High Risk for Psychosis Open Access

Moskow, Danielle Marion (2015)

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Schizophrenia (SZ) and other psychoses are debilitating mental disorders that affect between 1-2 in 100 people. Heightened stress or a defective hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis may produce an excess of cortisol. Elevated cortisol has been found in individuals who develop SZ and other psychotic disorders. In order to best study prevention methods, it is important to investigate the period between when an individual begins to show signs of a psychotic disorder to when they develop a full-blown disorder. This phase, the prodromal phase, is often seen during adolescence. The present study examined the relation between cortisol and Tanner stage of pubertal development in healthy youth and youth at clinical high-risk (CHR) for psychosis. It was hypothesized that CHR youth would show a stronger positive relationship between cortisol level and Tanner stage than would controls. Positive correlations were found between stage of puberty and cortisol, and contrary to prediction, were stronger for healthy youth than CHR youth. This study also hypothesized that CHR youth who developed psychosis would have significantly higher baseline levels of cortisol at the first stages of puberty compared to CHR youth who did not develop psychosis. Results from a series of ANCOVAs indicated significant differences in the relation between cortisol and Tanner stage in CHR females who converted and did not convert. These preliminary findings highlight the importance of studying cortisol in relation to pubertal development in order to investigate potential indicators of the development of psychosis.

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