The psychobiology of stress and coping in the human neonate

Studies of adrenocortical activity 1n response to aversive stimulation

Megan R Gunnar, Steve Malone, Robert O. Fisch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Since the pioneering work of Hans Selye (1936, 1973), activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system has figured prominently in studies of stress and coping in a variety of species (e.g., see chapter by Levine and Coe, this volume). Despite their widespread use in such studies, measures of adrenocortical activity have been far less commonplace in research on stress and coping in human infants. When we began the research to be described herein, there were only a handful of published reports concerning either the effects of stressors on adrenocortical activity in infants (Anders, Sachar, Kream, Roffwarg, & Hellman, 1970; Cathro, 1969; Colle, Ulstrom, Burley, & Gunville, 1960; Gutai, George, Koeff, & Bacon, 1972; Talbert, Kraybill & Potter, 1976; Tennes, Downey, & Vemadakis, 1977) or the relationship between infant behavior and levels of adrenocortical hormones (Anders, Sacher, Kream, Roffwarg & Hellman, 1970; Tennes & Carter, 1973; Tennes et a!., 1977; Tennes & Vernadakis, 1977). All that was known about the infant adrenocortical system was that it could be shown to respond to aversive, stressful stimulation, and that behavioral distress (e.g., crying) was associated with elevated cortisol levels. while sleep was associated with low levels of circulating adrenocortical hormones or their urinary metabolites. This relative dearth of information on the psychobiology of adrenocortical regulation in infants is attributable in part to measurement problems. Levels of circulating adrenocortical hormones can be calculated from the concentrations of glucocorticoid metabolites in urine or assayed directly from blood serum or plasma. Urine samples, however, are difficult to obtain from infants (Tennes & Vernadakis, 1977), and blood sampling techniques require invasive procedures that are in themselves stressful (Malone et a!., in press). The relative lack of research using measures of adre-180 GUNNAR, MALONE, FISCH nocortical activity in infants, however, is perhaps primarily due to the lack of familiarity on the part of most developmental psychologists with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system and the information it can provide about an individual’s physiological and psychological status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationStress and Coping
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Pages179-196
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781134927500
ISBN (Print)0898595649
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013

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Newborn Infant
Hormones
Research
Urine
Psychology
Infant Behavior
Crying
Information Systems
Glucocorticoids
Hydrocortisone
Sleep
Serum

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The psychobiology of stress and coping in the human neonate : Studies of adrenocortical activity 1n response to aversive stimulation. / Gunnar, Megan R; Malone, Steve; Fisch, Robert O.

Stress and Coping. Taylor and Francis, 2013. p. 179-196.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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