Universiteit Leiden

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LIBC Colloquium

Thursday 29 September 2022
Hybrid colloquium
Pieter de la Courtgebouw, room SB11 and via zoom

RS research seminar - Cortisol and the stressed brain

‘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. 

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.

If you would like to attend this lecture via zoom please register via e-mail to

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