Corticosteroids and cognition

J Psychiatr Res. 2001 May-Jun;35(3):127-45. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3956(01)00018-8.


The brain is a major target organ for corticosteroids. It has been observed that excessive circulatory levels of endogenous and exogenous corticosteroids are frequently associated with cognitive impairment in a wide variety of clinical disease states. Cognition and low levels of corticosteroids have been less well studied. In this paper we review the literature on glucocorticosteroid effects on cognition and delineate specific functions that appear to be causally affected. We draw a possible connection to specific areas of brain perturbation, including the hippocampus and frontal lobe regions. The possibility that cognitive dysfunction caused by glucocorticoids can be pharmacologically managed is introduced.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Addison Disease / physiopathology
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology
  • Cognition Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Cushing Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Depressive Disorder / physiopathology
  • Frontal Lobe / drug effects
  • Frontal Lobe / pathology
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Glucocorticoids