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Seminar series

Social Resilience & Security seminar series: Cortisol and the stressed brain

Thursday 29 September 2022
Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden

‘Stress’ is a state of the organism, in response to a challenge that is hard to adept to. Bodily states are supported by changes in brain activity, but even more so by hormones. Hormones are signaling factors that travel through the blood and in this can way reach many organs to coordinate their activity. The hormone cortisol supports adaptation to stress, and one of its important target organs is the brain.

There are many ways to study the effects of cortisol in rodent brains, but experimental access to the human brain is limited. The two best approaches available are brain imaging and analysis of post mortem brain tissue. We have adopted an approach to combine these two, called ‘imaging transcriptomics’. From post mortem material from ‘clinically unremarkable subjects’ we can know which genes are expressed in areas of interest in imaging studies. This is a rather new and exciting thing to do. 

Linking human brain imaging to underlying biology

We have employed this technique to address the question why some brain regions are more sensitive than others, to rapid changes in the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol. We find that two signaling mechanisms known from work in rodents are prime candidates for cortisol sensitivity in the human brain. One of these involves the ‘endocannabinoid’ signaling pathway.

We conclude that we may have found a basis for stress hormone sensitivity in the human brain. Of note, this approach may be used to link basically many more imaging studies to the biological underpinnings of brain reactivity.

Learn more during the (hybrid) seminar

The seminar ''Cortisol and the stressed brain'' by Onno Meijer (professor in neuroendocrinology of corticosteroids at the LUMC) will take place in the Pieter de la Court building (room SB11) or can be joined online via the Zoom link below.

Social Resilience & Security seminar series

This hybrid seminar series is organized by researchers from the Social Resilience and Security programme. The programme brings together experts from Leiden University and the LUMC, including but not limited to the Faculties of Archaeology, Governance and Global Affairs, Humanities, Law and Social and Behavioural Sciences. Together with a large network of international experts, the programme seeks to examine the mechanisms of social resilience and security, for instance through studying the processes of resilience, uncertainty, and violence in society.

Join Zoom meeting

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