Effects of social isolation on glucocorticoid regulation in social mammals.

TitleEffects of social isolation on glucocorticoid regulation in social mammals.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsHawkley LC, Cole SW, Capitanio JP, Norman GJ, Cacioppo JT
JournalHorm Behav
Date Published2012 Aug
KeywordsAnimals, Glucocorticoids, Humans, Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System, Pituitary-Adrenal System, Social Isolation

The regulation and function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis and glucocorticoids have been well conserved across vertebrate species. Glucocorticoids influence a wide range of physiological functions that include glucose regulation, metabolism, inflammatory control, as well as cardiovascular, reproductive, and neuronal effects. Some of these are relatively quick-acting non-genomic effects, but most are slower-acting genomic effects. Thus, any stimulus that affects HPA function has the potential to exert wide-ranging short-term and long-term effects on much of vertebrate physiology. Here, we review the effects of social isolation on the functioning of the HPA axis in social species, and on glucocorticoid physiology in social mammals in particular. Evidence indicates that objective and perceived social isolation alter HPA regulation, although the nature and direction of the HPA response differs among species and across age. The inconsistencies in the direction and nature of HPA effects have implications for drawing cross-species conclusions about the effects of social isolation, and are particularly problematic for understanding HPA-related physiological processes in humans. The animal and human data are incommensurate because, for example, animal studies of objective isolation have typically not been modeled on, or for comparability with, the subjective experience of isolation in humans. An animal model of human isolation must be taken more seriously if we want to advance our understanding of the mechanisms for the effects of objective and perceived isolation in humans.

Alternate JournalHorm Behav
PubMed ID22663934
PubMed Central IDPMC3449017
Grant ListP51-RR000169 / RR / NCRR NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG034052 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01 AG036433 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01-AG036433 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01‐AG033590 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01‐AG034052 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
R01‐CA116778 / CA / NCI NIH HHS / United States
R37 AG033590 / AG / NIA NIH HHS / United States
Z99 RG999999 / / Intramural NIH HHS / United States