Acute stress markers in humans: Response of plasma glucose, cortisol and prolactin to two examinations differing in the anxiety they provoke

A. Armario, O. Marti, T. Molina, J. De Pablo, M. Valdes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

94 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although the endocrine response to psychological stressors has been extensively studied both in animals and humans, the sensitivity of these variables to the intensity of stress experienced by exposure to psychologically stressful situations has not been studied in humans. In the present work this was assessed by measuring plasma levels of glucose, cortisol and prolactin in female medical students just before taking two examinations clearly differing in the anxiety they provoke. It was found that both examinations increased anxiety just before taking them, but the physiology examination (EPh) caused higher anxiety than the psychology (EPs). Prolactin increased in response to both examinations as compared to the non- stress condition, but its levels were greater in the EPh than in the EPs. Cortisol followed the same pattern as prolactin, but increased only marginally in the EPs. Finally, glycemia rose to the same extent in response to both examinations. A significant positive correlation was found between anxiety and glucose, and between cortisol and prolactin when data from all situations were included. On the basis of these results, it appears that the three variables might be useful as putative markers of stress in humans, although glucose might reflect different underlying psychological processes than cortisol and prolactin. In addition, it was found for the first time that prolactin is able to discriminate between stressful situations of different intensity. The response of these physiological variables to other stressful situations differing both in quantitative and in qualitative terms merits to be studied in further work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-206
JournalRevista de Psiquiatria de la Facultad de Medicina de Barcelona
Volume24
Issue number7 SUPPL.
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1997

Keywords

  • Anxiety
  • Cortisol
  • Examination stress
  • Glucose
  • Humans
  • Prolactin
  • Stress markers

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