Cortisol levels in childhood and psychosis risk in late adolescence
A deregulated Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis may play a role in the neurobiology of schizophrenia. We studied children who participated in the TRAILS research (Tracking Adolescents’ Individual Lives Survey) in order to investigate whether the cortisol levels from saliva during puberty (measurement T1, age 10-12) are related to a risk for later sub-clinical psychosis experiences during adolescence (T3, age 14-16).
At T1 3 cortisol samples were gathered (saliva): directly after waking up (Cort0700), 30 minutes later (Cort0730) and at 20:00 in the evening (Cort2000). The scores for depression and anxiety were also gathered at T1 with the RCADS. At T3 the CAPE was used to measure psychometric schizotype. 1,334 preadolescents with acceptable cortisol measurements at T1 and for whom the CAPE was measured at T3 were used.
No connection was found between cortisol (from saliva) from the 10-12 year olds and later scores on the CAPE. This suggests that HPA axis characteristics do not predict sub-clinical psychotic experiences. A predictive association was found between RCADS scores and the CAPE scores, suggesting that anxiety and depression symptoms are associated with later psychometric schyzotype. An association between depression and anxiety and sensitivity for the emergence of a psychosis is consistent with extant research toward psychopathology in the general population, and suggests that emotional damage is influential in the emergence of psychotic symptoms.