The effects of glucocorticoids on the inhibition of emotional information: A dose-response study

Biol Psychol. 2011 Jan;86(1):17-25. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.10.001. Epub 2010 Oct 8.


There is evidence that cortisol influences cognitive and affective processes such as selective attention and memory for emotional events, yet the effects of glucocorticoids on attentional inhibition in humans remain unknown. Consequently, this double-blind study examined dose-dependent effects of exogenous glucocorticoids on the inhibition of emotional information. Sixty-three university students (14 male, 49 female) ingested either a placebo pill or hydrocortisone (10mg or 40mg), and completed a negative priming task assessing the inhibition of pictures depicting angry, sad, and happy faces. The 10mg, but not the 40mg hydrocortisone dose elicited increased inhibition for angry faces relative to placebo. Thus, moderate glucocorticoid elevations may have adaptive effects on emotional information processing, whereas high glucocorticoid elevations appear to attenuate this effect, consistent with the view that there are dose-dependent effects of glucocorticoids on cognition.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Emotions / drug effects*
  • Facial Expression*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Hydrocortisone / pharmacology*
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Sex Factors
  • Young Adult


  • Hydrocortisone