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Neuroscientific Basis of Corticosteroid-Induced Changes in Human Cognitive and Emotional Processing: Implications for Affective Illness


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: July 2013 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 309–315
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000432601.09514.12
COLUMNS: Psychopharmacology

In this column, the authors first present a composite of several cases of psychiatrically healthy individuals who developed manic-depressive symptoms after receiving a course of prednisone to treat symptoms of inflammatory processes, such as Crohn’s disease. The next section summarizes keys points from 50 years of clinical experience with such cases. The authors then present an overview of the effects of exogenous administration of glucocorticoids on cognitive performance and emotional processing via effects on medial temporal lobe and prefrontal structures, including the amygdala, hippocampus, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. These effects include glucocorticoid-induced deficits in declarative and autobiographical memory, altered activation of medial temporal lobe structures, and delayed habituation of hemodynamic responses to emotional faces. Finally, these findings are connected in a discussion of how glucocorticoid exposure can result in mood disturbances and what light that may shed on the neurobiology underlying spontaneous bipolar and unipolar affective illnesses. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2013;19:309–315)

KYMBERLY D. YOUNG, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa Oklahoma; SHELDON H. PRESKORN, MD, is Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita; Chief Science Officer and Medical Director, Kansas University-Wichita Clinical Trials Unit (KU-W CTU), Wichita, Kansas; and research psychiatrist, Laureate Institute for Brain Research, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has more than 35 years of drug development research experience at all levels (i.e., preclinical through Phase IV) and has been a principal investigator on over 350 clinical trials—funded by industry, the federal government, or private foundations—including trials of every antidepressant and antipsychotic medication marketed in the United States over a period of 25 years. Dr. Preskorn maintains a website at where readers can access previous columns and other publications.

Disclosure statement: Dr. Young declares no conflicts of interest. Over his career, Dr. Preskorn has worked with over 100 pharmaceutical companies in the United States and throughout the world. Over the past year, Dr. Preskorn has received grants/research support from or has served as a consultant, on the advisory board, or on the speakers bureau for the following: Abbott, AssureRx Health, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cyberonics, Envivo, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, National Institute of Mental Health, Naurex, Novartis, Pfizer, Stanley Medical Research Institute, Sunovion, and Taisho.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.