Sympathetic-Adrenal and Pituitary-Adrenal Response to Challenge

  • Marianne Frankenhaeuser
  • Ulf Lundberg


The sympathetic-adrenal medullary and pituitary-adrenal cortical systems form the corner stones of modern stress research, with roots in Cannon’s and Selye’s work. Both systems are controlled by the brain. Hence, when a person perceives a change, or threat, or challenge in the environment, this triggers a chain of neuroendocrine events. Messages go to the adrenal medulla, which secretes the catecholamines adrenaline and noradrenaline, and to the adrenal cortex, which secretes Cortisol. Catecholamines and Cortisol have several key functions: as sensitive indicators of the stressfulness of person- environment transactions, as regulators of vital bodily functions and, under some circumstances, as mediators of bodily reactions leading to disease. In short, the effects may be adaptive but they may also be harmful, particularly in promoting cardiovascular pathology (Kones, 1979).


Adrenal Medulla Cortisol Excretion Urinary Cortisol Excretion Adrenaline Secretion Increase Cortisol Secretion 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marianne Frankenhaeuser
    • 1
  • Ulf Lundberg
    • 1
  1. 1.Psychology Division, Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, Karolinska Institutet, and Department of PsychologyUniversity of StockholmStockholmSweden

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