Salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol in infancy and toddlerhood: Direct and indirect relations with executive functioning and academic ability in childhood

Daniel Berry, Clancy Blair, Michael Willoughby, Douglas A. Granger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations

Abstract

Using data from a predominantly low-income, population-based prospective longitudinal sample of 1292 children followed from birth, indicators of children's autonomic (salivary alpha-amylase; sAA) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (salivary cortisol) activity at 7, 15, and 24 months of age were found to predict executive functioning at 36-months and academic achievement in pre-kindergarten. The findings suggested that the respective cortisol and sAA effects on executive functioning and academic achievement were interactive. Optimal developmental outcomes were associated with asymmetrical cortisol/sAA profiles. Higher cortisol levels were predictive of lower executive functioning and academic abilities, but only for those with concurrently moderate to high levels of sAA. In contrast, higher sAA concentrations were predictive of better executive functioning and academic abilities, but only for those with concurrently moderate to low levels of cortisol. These relations were statistically identical across infancy and toddlerhood. The conditional effects of cortisol and sAA on pre-kindergarten academic achievement were mediated fully by links between these early physiological indicators and executive functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1700-1711
Number of pages12
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume37
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Family Life Project Key Investigators include Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Martha Cox, Clancy Blair, Peg Burchinal, Linda Burton, Keith Crnic, Ann Crouter, Patricia Garrett-Peters, Mark Greenberg, Maureen Ittig, Stephanie Lanza, Roger Mills-Koonce, Debra Skinner, Cynthia Stifter, and Michael Willoughby. Support for this research was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development grants R01 HD51502 and P01 HD39667 with co-funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Funding Information:
Support for this research was provided by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) grants R01 HD51502 and P01 HD39667, with co-funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Neither the NICHD nor NIDA played any further role in the study design, the collection, analysis and interpretation of data, the authorship of this manuscript, or the decision to submit this manuscript for publication.

Keywords

  • Academic achievement
  • Early childhood
  • Executive function
  • Salivary alpha-amylase
  • Salivary cortisol

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