Lack of stability in neonatal adrenocortical reactivity because of rapid habituation of the adrenocortical response

Dev Psychobiol. 1989 Apr;22(3):221-33. doi: 10.1002/dev.420220304.


The purpose of the study was to examine the stability of the adrenocortical response to stimulation in the human neonate. Forty-nine healthy newborns were examined twice responding to discharge examinations performed on two consecutive days. The dependent measures were salivary and plasma cortisol and behavioral state. Little evidence of stability was obtained. Instead, the results showed significant elevations in cortisol only in response to the first discharge examination. No significant elevation in cortisol was noted to the second discharge examination although the newborns continued to exhibit behavioral distress. Time since delivery was not a significant factor in producing these results. The findings are discussed with regard to neonatal coping processes and the importance of novelty in regulating increases in adrenocortical activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / physiology*
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Crying / physiology
  • Female
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Male


  • Hydrocortisone