Recent approaches to stress regulation have emphasized coordination among multiple biological systems. This study builds on evidence that hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity should be considered in coordination with other stress-sensitive biological systems to characterize healthy responses. Healthy African-Americans (n=115) completed the Trier Social Stress Test, and biological responses were assessed through salivary cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), alpha amylase (sAA), and C-reactive protein (sCRP). Multilevel modeling demonstrated that cortisol responses typically aligned with changes in DHEA-S, sAA, and sCRP across the session. At the same time, the degree of cortisol coordination with sAA and sCRP varied by participants' subjective stress following the task; participants with higher secondary stress appraisals showed greater cortisol-sAA alignment, whereas those experiencing more negative affect showed greater cortisol-sCRP alignment. Results highlight the importance of a multisystem approach to stress and suggest that positive HPA axis coordination with the autonomic response, but not with the immune/inflammatory response, may be adaptive.
Keywords: Alpha-amylase; C-reactive protein; Coordination; Cortisol; DHEA-S; Stress; Trier Social Stress Test.
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