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Cortisol and Reduced Interhemispheric Coupling Between the Left Prefrontal and the Right Parietal Cortex
Dennis J.L.G. Schutter, M.A.; Jack Van Honk, Ph.D.; Hans Koppeschaar, Ph.D.; RenË Kahn, M.D., Ph.D.
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2002;14:89-90. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.14.1.89
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CortisolInterhemispheric Coupling

SIR: Neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies have demonstrated a relationship between hypoactivation of the left prefrontal cortex and depression.1 There is also strong evidence for the involvement of the right parietal cortex in this unipolar disorder.

Davidson1 proposes an interhemispheric circuit consisting of the left prefrontal and right parietal area to be dysfunctional in depression. Depression is often accompanied by defective feedback of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, resulting in elevated levels of the steroid hormone cortisol.2

Interestingly, steroid hormones are involved in interhemispheric transmission.3 A valid method for quantifying interhemispheric transmission or functional connectivity is EEG spectral coherence analysis, which measures phase consistency at paired locations.4 A reliable measure for cortisol reaching the target tissues in the brain can be taken from saliva.5 We investigated the relationship between salivary cortisol and EEG spectral coherence over the left prefrontal and the right parietal cortex.

Thirty nonclinical, right-handed subjects (15 females) ages 20 to 28 years participated. Written informed consent was obtained. To control for circadian hormonal rhythms, the sessions were conducted between 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Salivary sampling was followed by a 10-minute EEG baseline recording from the F3, F4, P3, P4 electrodes, which were referenced to the right mastoid. Cortisol levels were determined by radioimmunoassay. Baseline cortisol did not (P<0.25) and normally does not differ between the sexes.5 Artifact-free EEG signal (bandpass filter: 1—30 Hz) was extracted through a Hamming window, and a fast Fourier transformation was used to derive estimates of spectral power (μV2). Squared correlation coefficients (coherences) were determined for the four electrodes in the 4—7 Hz (θ), 8—13 Hz (α), and 14—30 Hz (β) frequency domains.

Correlational analyses showed significant inverse relations between cortisol and the F3—P4 coherence in the fast α (r=—0.43, P<0.01) and β (r=—0.39, P<0.03) EEG frequency bands. Thus, already in this nonclinical subject group, higher cortisol was accompanied by reductions in interhemispheric transmission between the left prefrontal and right parietal cortex. Our data might suggest a sensitive interhemispheric decoupling mechanism by which pathological levels of the steroid hormone cortisol could be implicated in depression.

Davidson RJ, Henriques J: Regional brain function in sadness and depression, in The Neuropsychology of Emotion, edited by Borod JC. New York, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp 269-297
 
Holsboer F: The corticosteroid receptor hypothesis of depression. Neuropsychopharmacology  2000; 23:477-501
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Hausmann M, Güntürkün O: Steroid fluctuations modify functional asymmetries: the hypothesis of progesterone-mediated interhemispheric decoupling. Neuropsychologia  2000; 38:1352-1374
 
Nunez PL: Toward a quantitative description of large-scale neocortical dynamic function and EEG. Behav Brain Sci  2000; 23:371-437
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Kirschbaum C, Kudielka BM, Gaab J, et al: Impact of gender, menstrual cycle phase, and oral contraceptives on the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Psychosom Med  1999; 61:154-162
[PubMed]
 
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References

Davidson RJ, Henriques J: Regional brain function in sadness and depression, in The Neuropsychology of Emotion, edited by Borod JC. New York, Oxford University Press, 2000, pp 269-297
 
Holsboer F: The corticosteroid receptor hypothesis of depression. Neuropsychopharmacology  2000; 23:477-501
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Hausmann M, Güntürkün O: Steroid fluctuations modify functional asymmetries: the hypothesis of progesterone-mediated interhemispheric decoupling. Neuropsychologia  2000; 38:1352-1374
 
Nunez PL: Toward a quantitative description of large-scale neocortical dynamic function and EEG. Behav Brain Sci  2000; 23:371-437
[CrossRef] | [PubMed]
 
Kirschbaum C, Kudielka BM, Gaab J, et al: Impact of gender, menstrual cycle phase, and oral contraceptives on the activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Psychosom Med  1999; 61:154-162
[PubMed]
 
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