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Day differences in the cortisol awakening response predict day differences in synaptic plasticity in the brain

By A. Clow, R. Law, P. Evans, A.M. Vallence, N.A. Hodyl, M.R. Goldsworthy, J.R. Rothwell and M.C. Ridding


The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is the most prominent, dynamic and variable part of the circadian pattern of cortisol secretion. Despite this, its precise purpose is unknown. Aberrant patterns of the CAR are associated with impaired physical and mental health and reduced cognitive function, suggesting that it may have a pervasive role or roles. It has been suggested that the CAR primes the brain for the expected demands of the day but the mechanisms underlying this process are unknown. We examined temporal covariation of the CAR and rapid transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS)-induced long term depression (LTD)-like responses in the motor cortex. Plasticity was evaluated across 180 measures from five time points on four sessions across nine healthy researcher participants, mean age 25 +/- 2.5 years. Plasticity estimates were obtained in the afternoon after measurement of the CAR on 4 days, at least 3 days apart. As both CAR magnitude and rTMS-induced responses are variable across days, we hypothesized that days with larger than individual average CARs would be associated with a greater than individual average plasticity response. This was confirmed by mixed regression modelling where variation in the CAR predicted variation in rTMS-induced responses (df: 1, 148.24; F: 10.41; p = 0.002). As the magnitude of the CAR is regulated by the "master" circadian CLOCK, and synaptic plasticity is known to be modulated by peripheral "slave" CLOCK genes, we suggest that the CAR may be a mediator between the master and peripheral circadian systems to entrain daily levels of synaptic plasticity

Publisher: 'Informa UK Limited'
Year: 2014
DOI identifier: 10.3109/10253890.2014.905533
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Provided by: Research Repository
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