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HPA Axis Functioning and Development Lab
 
Functioning of the child’s stress regulation system, hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis), is studied at the age of 2,5 months, 6 months and 14 months. HPA-axis secretes “stress hormone” cortisol into the blood circulation but the amount of cortisol can also be measured non-invasively from saliva. HPA-axis is activated during challenging situations (e.g. physical or psychological distress) when cortisol promotes alertness and coping of mind and body. Functioning of the HPA-axis also has a typical circadian rhythm which consists of a high cortisol peak in the morning which then gradually decreases and reaches its lowest levels at night. The circadian rhythm usually matures around the first year of life. Inter individual variation in cortisol levels and HPA-axis reactivity is substantial and the relevance of this to the well-being and morbidity is studied widely. Still little is known about the development of the HPA-axis functioning during the early childhood.
 
Aim of the project is to study the development of the HPA-axis functioning and the effects of prenatal conditions to the HPA-axis reactivity of the child during the first year of life. A structured clinical check-up by a doctor (2,5 and 14 mo) or the appointment with the nurse specialized in the treatment of childrens’ infections (6 mo), following blood and nasopharynx sampling are used as a stressors for the child. Five cortisol saliva samples are taken during the study visit to measure HPA-axis reactivity and recovery during the stress: before the doctor/nurse visit and 0, 15, 25 and 35 minutes after the blood/nasopharynx sampling. Study visits were completed in February 2016 (age 2,5 months), in May 2016 (age 6 months) and in January 2017 (age 14 months). More than 900 study visits were done during the years 2012-2017. We would like to thank all the families. The HPA-axis functioning data will be linked with the several other FinnBrain sub studies such as brain imaging, temperament assessments, gut microbiota profiles and vulnerability for infections of the child.
 
For more information:
Susanna Kortesluoma MSc, PhD student, sukort@utu.fi
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