Pre-scan cortisol is differentially associated with enhanced connectivity to the cognitive control network in young adults with a history of depression

Amy T. Peters, Lisanne M. Jenkins, Jonathan P. Stange, Katie L. Bessette, Kristy A. Skerrett, Leah R. Kling, Robert C. Welsh, Mohammed R. Milad, K. Luan Phan, Scott A. Langenecker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: We have previously demonstrated that pre-scan salivary cortisol is associated with attentuated frontal-subcortical brain activation during emotion processesing and semantic list-learning paradigms in depressed subjects. Additionally, altered functional connectivity is observed after remission of acute depression symptoms (rMDD). It is unknown whether cortisol also predicts altered functional connectivity during remission. Methods: Participants were 47 healthy controls (HC) and 73 rMDD, 18–30 years old who provided salivary cortisol samples before and after undergoing resting-state fMRI. We tested whether salivary cortisol by diagnosis interactions were associated with seed-based resting connectivity of the default mode (DMN) and salience and emotion (SN) networks using whole-brain, cluster-level corrected (p <.01) regression in SPM8. Results: Pre-scan cortisol predicted decreased (HC) and increased (rMDD) cross-network connectivity to the dorsal anterior cingulate, dorso-medial and lateral- prefrontal cortex, brain stem and cerebellum (all seeds) and precuneus (DMN seeds). By and large, pre/post-scan cortisol change predicted the same pattern of findings. In network analyses, cortisol predominantly predicted enhanced cross-network connectivity to cognitive control network regions in rMDD. Conclusions: The association of cortisol with connections of default and salience networks to executive brain networks differs between individuals with and without a history of depression. Further investigation is needed to better understand the role of cortisol and related stress hormones as a potential primary and interactive driver of network coherence in depression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Connectivity
  • Cortisol
  • Depression
  • Remission
  • fMRI

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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