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Cardiovascular, hormonal, and emotional responses to the TSST in relation to sex and menstrual cycle phase


  • We thank Ben Cunningham and Stephen Sittler, who conducted the TSST interviews, Lisa Vicini and Heather Phillips, who assisted with collection of the data, and Nicholas Van Dam, who assisted with data analysis and preparation of the manuscript. This research was supported by NIDA (DA02812) and the University of Chicago Hospital's GCRC (USPHS MO1RR000555).

Address reprint requests to: Emma Childs, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences MC3077, The University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail:


The prevalence of stress disorders differs between men and women. An understanding of how men and women vary in acute stress responses may help to understand these sex differences. We compared responses to the TSST and a control task in healthy men (N=28) and women tested in two phases (Follicular N=29, Luteal N=23) of the menstrual cycle. Men exhibited greater cortisol responses to stress than women in either phase. Luteal women exhibited the greatest subjective and allopregnanolone responses to stress, whereas follicular women exhibited blunted noradrenaline responses. Partial correlations controlling for group differences revealed that individuals who were most sensitive to the subjective effects of stress exhibited the largest salivary cortisol, noradrenaline, and allopregnanolone responses and the smallest progesterone responses to stress. We discuss our findings in the context of sex differences in the prevalence of stress-linked disorders.