The hyporeactivity of salivary cortisol at stress test (TSST-C) in children with internalizing or externalizing disorders is contrastively associated with α-amylase.J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Dec; 71:78-88.JP
Stress biomarkers of the autonomic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) can be measured via alpha-amylase (AA) and cortisol and cortisone in saliva. Objectives were to determine 1) the response patterns of cortisol, cortisone, and AA under both circadian conditions and the Trier Social Stress Test for Children (TSST-C), 2) which reactivity index is most suitable to differentiate internalizing or externalizing disorders from controls, and to explore 3) the interaction between AA and cortisol in the presence of internalizing or externalizing disorders.
Saliva samples (n = 2893) from children with internalizing (n = 55) or externalizing disorders (n = 33) and healthy children (n = 81) were analyzed for cortisol, cortisone, and AA under circadian conditions and TSST-C.
Circadian rhythm of three biomarkers did not differ between diagnostic groups. Age and gender were significant predictors for cortisol and awakening time influenced all three biomarkers significantly. TSST-C responses appeared sequentially in the order of AA, cortisol, and cortisone. Trajectories of cortisol and cortisone responses, not in AA, were significantly lower in children with internalizing or externalizing disorders than in healthy children. Cortisol percentage increase appeared to be the most suitable reactivity index to detect the difference between the diagnostic groups. Internalizing disorders had a negative association between AA decrease and cortisol increase (β = -.199, p < .05, R(2) = .304). Externalizing disorders had a positive association between AA baseline and cortisol increase (β = .229, p < .05, R(2) = .304).
An altered HPA-axis response during stress might result from chronic allostatic load in internalizing disorders and underaroused stress response system in externalizing disorders.