Subjective and physiological stress measurement in a multiple sclerosis sample and the relation with executive functions performance
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In multiple sclerosis (MS), hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis functioning may be dysregulated due to the high cortisol levels involved in the disease activity. HPA axis dysregulation can affect cognitive performance, including executive functions. This study aimed to evaluate hair cortisol concentration and perceived stress as well as verify the association with the performance of executive function in both individuals diagnosed with MS and control individuals. Hair cortisol concentration and perceived stress were evaluated and their association with the performance of healthy individuals (n = 33) and those with MS (n = 64), most of them with remitting-relapsing multiple sclerosis (RRMS) assessed using the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS). Instruments that were employed to measure perceived stress and health aspects included the Behavioral Assessment Dysexecutive Syndrome, Wisconsin Card Sorting Test, Stroop Test, and Perceived Stress Scale. No significant statistical difference was found in the comparison of means among the groups; however, an association was found when using statistical correlation tests between cortisol and cognitive performance in the clinical group (r = 0.31, p = 0.10). Further, an absence of correlations with perceived stress measure was noted. It was possible to observe interaction between group factors and low level of cortisol and problem-solving/cognitive flexibility in the MS group. The results indicated that stress measures used in the present study seem to influence the performance of inhibitory control and problem-solving/cognitive flexibility, the latter with low levels of cortisol in individuals with MS. We suggest studies that examine different measures of physiological stress and characteristics of the disease such as more time of stress.
KeywordsExecutive functioning Cortisol Perceived stress Autoimmune disease
This research received grant from CNPq number 6599740764475980. The funding was used for the hair cortisol analysis.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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