Cortisol levels and cognitive profile in major depression: A comparison of currently and previously depressed patients
AuthorHøifødt, Ragnhild Sørensen; Waterloo, Knut; Wang, Catharina Elisabeth Arfwedson; Eisemann, Martin; Figenschau, Yngve Anton; Halvorsen, Marianne
The association between depressive symptoms and elevated cortisol levels, and depression and cognitive functioning, has been less robust in outpatients with symptoms in the mild to moderate range. Furthermore, the association between elevated cortisol levels and cognitive functioning is unclear. In the present study, currently depressed (n = 37), previously depressed (n = 81) and never depressed controls (n = 50) were assessed on a range of neuropsychological measures. Salivary cortisol was measured in the morning and evening. Participants with current depression were non-hospitalized and had symptoms predominately in the mild to moderate range. Elevated salivary evening cortisol, but not morning cortisol, was significantly related to depressive symptoms. The difference in cortisol levels between the previously depressed group and the never depressed controls was not significant. The groups had significantly different cognitive profiles, with the currently depressed performing poorer on tasks related to working memory compared to the never depressed controls. Both the currently and previously depressed performed worse on attentional tasks. The findings indicate that outpatients with mild to moderate depression have elevated cortisol levels and limited mild cognitive impairments. Furthermore, mild impairments in attention may persist after remission, indicating that this could be a trait-marker in depression. The present study did not find support for a significant relationship between cortisol and cognitive functioning.