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Neurocognitive and endocrine dysfunction in women with exhaustion syndrome
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Radiation Sciences. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Integrative Medical Biology (IMB).
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Stress has emerged as one of the most important factors to consider in psychiatric diagnoses and has become a common reason for long-term sick leave (LTSL). Roughly 50% of LTSL due to psychiatric diseases are thought to be associated with work-related stress. The demarcation towards major depression is disputed, and no international consensus exists for how to diagnose and rehabilitate these individuals.

The Swedish National Board of Health has suggested the term “exhaustion syndrome” to integrate these individuals into stress-related disorders. Prominent features of this syndrome are fatigue, sleeping disorders, and cognitive dysfunction. The cognitive dysfunction may be due to an interaction between personality features, environmental factors, the biological effects of stress hormones, and dysfunction in key brain areas, notably the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. A consistent feature of chronic stress is activation of the cortisol, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, axis, which may be linked to cognitive dysfunction. Increased glucocorticoid levels, mainly cortisol in humans, are known to impair memory performance. The aim of this thesis was to investigate whether patients with exhaustion syndrome exhibit specific alterations in an extensive set of biological, psychological and immunological variables.

Patients in Study 1 had significant cognitive impairment for specific tasks assumed to tap frontal lobe functioning. In Study 2 anxiety prone, worrying, pessimistic individuals with low executive drive and a persistent personality type were more likely to develop exhaustion syndrome. Decreased reactivity was found on the pituitary level after corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) in exhaustion syndrome patients. The cortisol/adrenocorticotropic hormone response to CRH was slightly higher in patients compared to controls, indicating increased sensitivity at the adrenal cortex level. No differences were found in hippocampal volume. In Study 3, functional imaging revealed a different pattern of brain activation in working memory tests in patients with exhaustion syndrome compared to healthy individuals and patients with depression.

In summary, our data suggests an intimate link between personality and wellbeing, cognitive performance and neuroendocrine dysfunction, in exhaustion syndrome. We thus find similarities with major depression but also distinct differences between the exhaustion syndrome and major depression.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå university , 2010. , 76 p.
Series
Umeå University medical dissertations, ISSN 0346-6612 ; 1379
Keyword [en]
Cognition, attention, working memory, exhaustion syndrome, major depression, cortisol, HPA-axis, proinflammatory cytokines, psychology, neurocognitive, endocrine, fMRI, MRI, prefrontal cortex, multivariate, women, personality, TCI, stress
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging
Research subject
Medicine; Diagnostic Radiology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-37280ISBN: 978-91-7459-086-9 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-37280DiVA: diva2:358778
Public defence
2010-11-19, Sal B Tandläkarhuset, 901 87 Umeå, Umeå, 09:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-10-28 Created: 2010-10-25 Last updated: 2010-10-28Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Impaired cognitive performance in patients with chronic burnout syndrome
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2005 (English)In: Biological Psychology, ISSN 0301-0511, E-ISSN 1873-6246, Vol. 69, no 3, 271-279 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Chronic burnout refers to a syndrome caused by chronic stress. Clinical observations indicate that chronic burnout is associated with impaired cognitive functioning. However, there have been no systematic studies of the cognitive performance in chronic burnout patients. We have evaluated general cognitive ability, memory, and attention in 67 female patients treated for chronic burnout. The patients and 15 healthy control subjects were tested with standardized tests of verbal and nonverbal cognitive ability (WAIS), verbal (Claeson–Dahl) and nonverbal (Rey complex figures) memory, and visual and auditory attention (IVA). Significant reductions in nonverbal memory and auditory and visual attention were found for the patient group. These results indicate that patients with chronic burnout have specific cognitive impairments, which should be emphasized in the evaluation of symptoms and treatment regimes in this disorder.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2005
Keyword
Chronic burnout; Stress; Cognition; Memory; Attention; Processing speed
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Psychology
Research subject
Medicine; Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-37277 (URN)10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.08.003 (DOI)15925030 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2010-10-28 Created: 2010-10-25 Last updated: 2010-10-28Bibliographically approved
2. Cognitive deficits in relation to personality type and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction in women with stress-related exhaustion
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cognitive deficits in relation to personality type and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction in women with stress-related exhaustion
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2011 (English)In: Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, ISSN 0036-5564, E-ISSN 1467-9450, Vol. 52, no 1, 71-82 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Exhaustion caused by long-term work-related stress may cause cognitive dysfunction. We explored factors that may link chronic stress and cognitive impairment. Personality, psychiatric screening, and behavior were assessed by self-reporting measures in 20 female patients (mean age 39.3 years; range 26–53) with a preliminary diagnosis of stress-related exhaustion and in 16 healthy matched controls. Cognitive performance was investigated with a detailed neuropsychological test battery. Cortisol axis function was assessed by urinary and saliva collections of cortisol, dexamethasone suppression, Synacthen response, and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) tests. Proinflammatory cytokines were measured. Hippocampal volumes were estimated by magnetic resonance imaging. Multivariate and univariate statistical methods were used to explore putative differences between groups and factors linked to cognitive impairment. Cognitive function clearly differed between groups, with decreased attention and visuospatial memory in the patient group, suggesting frontal cortex/medial temporal cortex-network dysfunction. Increased harm avoidance and persistence was present among patients, with lowered self-directedness linked to lower quality of life, increased anxious and depressive tendencies, and experiences of psychosocial stress. Attention was decreased with concomitantly impaired visuospatial memory. The pituitary (adrenocorticotropic hormone, ACTH) response to CRH was decreased in patients, with an increased cortisol/ACTH response to CRH. However, cortisol production rates, diurnal or dexamethasone-suppressed saliva cortisol levels, and the cortisol response to Synacthen were unaltered. Hippocampal volumes did not differ between groups. These findings suggest that cognitive dysfunction in stress-related exhaustion is linked to distinct personality traits, low quality of life, and a decreased ACTH response to CRH.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011
Keyword
Stress, personality, cognition, HPA-axis, prefrontal cortex, multivariate analysis.
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Radiology, Nuclear Medicine and Medical Imaging
Research subject
Diagnostic Radiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-37278 (URN)10.1111/j.1467-9450.2010.00844.x (DOI)20964695 (PubMedID)
Note
Titel i avhandling: Stress-related cognitive deficits in relation to personality type and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction in womenAvailable from: 2010-10-28 Created: 2010-10-25 Last updated: 2011-03-29Bibliographically approved
3. Brain activation patterns in major depressive disorder and job stress-related long-term sick leave
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Brain activation patterns in major depressive disorder and job stress-related long-term sick leave
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(English)Article in journal (Other academic) Submitted
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-37354 (URN)
Available from: 2010-10-28 Created: 2010-10-28 Last updated: 2010-11-02Bibliographically approved

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