Get access

Dynamically changing effects of corticosteroids on human hippocampal and prefrontal processing

Authors

  • Marloes J.A.G. Henckens,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Memory and Emotion, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
    • Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Zhenwei Pu,

    1. Department of Memory and Emotion, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences—Center for Neuroscience, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Erno J. Hermans,

    1. Department of Memory and Emotion, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY, USA
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Guido A. van Wingen,

    1. Department of Memory and Emotion, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychiatry, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Marian Joëls,

    1. Department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology, Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
    2. Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences—Center for Neuroscience, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Guillén Fernández

    1. Department of Memory and Emotion, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    2. Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences—Center for Neuroscience, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    3. Department for Cognitive Neuroscience, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

Stress has a powerful impact on memory. Corticosteroids, released in response to stress, are thought to mediate, at least in part, these effects by affecting neuronal plasticity in brain regions involved in memory formation, including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Animal studies have delineated aspects of the underlying physiological mechanisms, revealing rapid, nongenomic effects facilitating synaptic plasticity, followed several hours later by a gene-mediated suppression of this plasticity. Here, we tested the hypothesis that corticosteroids would also rapidly upregulate and slowly downregulate brain regions critical for episodic memory formation in humans. To target rapid and slow effects of corticosteroids on neural processing associated with memory formation, we investigated 18 young, healthy men who received 20 mg hydrocortisone either 30 or 180 min before a memory encoding task in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, counter-balanced, crossover design. We used functional MRI to measure neural responses during these memory encoding sessions, which were separated by a month. Results revealed that corticosteroids' slow effects reduced both prefrontal and hippocampal responses, while no significant rapid actions of corticosteroids were observed. Thereby, this study provides initial evidence for dynamically changing corticosteroid effects on brain regions involved in memory formation in humans. Hum Brain Mapp, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Ancillary