Modeling and Computation Seminar
Dynamics of neuroendocrine stress response: bistability, timing, hypocortisolism and PTSD
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a neuroendocrine system that regulates numerous physiological processes. Disruptions in its activity are correlated with stress-related diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder. We characterize "normal" and "diseased" states of the HPA axis as basins of attraction of a dynamical system describing the inhibition of peptide hormones, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), by circulating glucocorticoids such as cortisol (CORT). Our model includes ultradian oscillations, CRH self-upregulation of CRH release, and distinguishes two components of negative feedback by cortisol on circulating CRH levels: a slow direct suppression of CRH synthesis and a fast indirect ect on CRH release. The slow regulation mechanism mediates external stress-driven transitions between the stable states in novel, intensity, duration, and timing-dependent ways. We end that thetiming of traumatic events may be an important factor in determining if and how the hallmarks of depressive disorders will manifest. Our model also suggests a mechanism whereby exposure therapy of stress disorders may act to normalize downstream dysregulation of the HPA axis.