ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2016, Vol. 24 ›› Issue (4): 536-546.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2016.00536

• Regular Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Temporal characteristics of change in HPA activity among PTSD patients

ZHANG Quan1; CHEN Zheng1; WANG Weiwen2; DENG Huihua1,2   

  1. (1 Key Laboratory of Child development and Learning Science, Ministry of Education, and Institute of Child
    Development and Education, Southeast University, Nanjing 10096,
    China) (2 Key Laboratory of Mental Health,
    Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101,
  • Received:2015-09-18 Online:2016-04-15 Published:2016-04-15
  • Contact: DENG Huihua, E-mail:


Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with abnormal functioning of the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, as shown by alterations of cortisol levels. However, results on the link of cortisol level with PTSD are inconsistent. Recent studies imply that PTSD patients show temporal characteristics of the change in cortisol level with the elevation at early stage and thereafter the decrease relative to the normal basal cortisol level after traumatic exposure. The temporal characteristics might be disturbed or masked by some factors, such as characteristics of biomarker, course of PTSD, type and intensity of stressor and comorbid disease. The present review suggested that future research needs to further profile temporal characteristics of change in cortisol level among PTSD patients by controlling the influencing factors and utilizing long-term follow-up design in combination with acute-stress and chronic- stress biomarkers and investigate whether it can be used to predict and intervene PTSD through cortisol treatment. Considering that cortisol level is regulated by metabolism and antagonism procedures, the use of multi-biomarkers will facilitate the reliable evaluation of the HPA axis activity among PTSD patients.

Key words: font-family: "Times New Roman", layout-grid-mode: line, color: black, letter-spacing: 0.2pt, mso-bidi-font-size: 12.0pt, mso-font-kerning: 1.0pt, mso-ansi-language: EN-US, mso-fareast-language: ZH-CN, mso-bidi-language: AR-SA, mso-fareast-font-family: 方正书宋_GBK">posttraumatic stress disorder, cortisol, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis, temporal characteristics