Research Highlight

Stress hormones protect against traumatic disorder

doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.144 Published online 29 September 2012

High levels of a group of hormones called 'stress hormones' could provide protection against post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a new research suggests.

Glucocorticoids, a group of hormones that includes cortisol, are called stress hormones because their levels increase following stress. The release of cortisol prepares the body to cope with the physical demands of stress. High levels of cortisol were earlier linked to depression and other stress-related disorders. In the long run, this was thought to impair the psychological capacity to cope with stress.

Drugs such as mifepristone that block glucocorticoid activity, called glucocorticoid receptor antagonists, have been tested as anti-depressants. Recent data, however, suggests that elevating glucocorticoid levels may reduce the development of PTSD.

The new study supports this hypothesis. The researchers used animal models to show that elevated levels of glucocorticoids at the time of acute stress confers protection against the delayed enhancing effect of stress on synaptic connectivity in the emotional hub of the brain (amygdala) and anxiety-like behavior.

"Using a rodent model of acute stress, we were able to identify a possible cellular mechanism in the amygdala", says lead researcher Sumantra Chattarji of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) in Bangalore.

With increasing costs and suffering associated with PTSD victims, the research could help develop new therapeutic strategies against the debilitating disorder, Chattarji says.

The authors of this work are from: NCBS, Bangalore, India and Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology, Rockefeller University, New York, USA.


  1. Rao, R. P. et al. Glucocorticoids protect against the delayed behavioral and cellular effects of acute stress on the amygdala. Biol. Psychiat. 72, 466-475 (2012) | Article | PubMed |