Nov 1, 1989

Hypercortisolism among socially subordinate wild baboons originates at the CNS level

Archives of General Psychiatry
R M Sapolsky


Recent studies suggest that the hypercortisolism and dexamathasone resistance of depression arise, at least in part, at the level of the brain, ie, cortisol-releasing factor (CRF) and/or other corticotropin-secretagogues are hypersecreted. This article suggests a similar cause of the hypercortisolism of social subordinance. Two troops of wild olive baboons, living freely in the Serengeti Ecosystem of East Africa, have been under long-term study. Consistently, in stable dominance hierachies, subordinate males are hypercortisolemic relative to dominant animals. Furthermore, hypercortisolemic males are dexamethasone resistant. There are no rank-related difference in cortisol clearance or adrenal sensitivity to corticotropin, suggesting a pituitary and/or neural locus of the hypercortisolism. Subordinate males were shown to secrete less corticotropin in response to a CRF-challenge than did dominant males. Following the logic used in similar studies with depressives, if subordinate males were hypercortisolemic despite decreased pituitary sensitivity to CRF, then this implies that the hyperactivity of the adrenocortical axis is driven at the level of the brain. Furthermore, subordinate males were hyporesponsive to CRF after administr...Continue Reading

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Mentioned in this Paper

Central Nervous System
Behavior, Animal
Adrenal Gland Hyperfunction
Primary Cortisol Resistance
Social Dominance
Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
Hydrocortisone, (9 beta,10 alpha,11 alpha)-Isomer

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