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1.  Can the neural–cortisol association be moderated by experience-induced changes in awareness? 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:16620.
Cortisol homeostasis is important for cognitive and affective functions that depend on cortisol-sensitive brain regions including the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Recent studies have shown that training induces changes in the brain. We report the findings of a longitudinal study that verified the moderation effect of experience-induced changes in awareness on the neural–cortisol association in cortisol-sensitive brain regions. These findings provide the first piece of evidence that planned behavioral experience can moderate the neural–cortisol association. A range of changes in awareness was achieved in a sample of 21 Chinese participants, divided into two groups: Awareness-based compassion meditation (ABCM) (n = 10) and relaxation (n = 11). We observed that changes in awareness were significant moderators of hippocampal–cortisol changes. Furthermore, a significant negative association between changes in plasma cortisol level and the resting-state synchrony of the right hippocampal and insular-frontal-operculum regions was observed. These novel findings shed light on the inter-relationships between changes in hippocampal–cortisol levels and changes in awareness and preliminarily identify the neural underpinnings of interventions for cortisol-related abnormal functioning for further study.
PMCID: PMC4649618  PMID: 26577539
2.  The Role of Circulating Serotonin in the Development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(2):e31617.
Cigarette smoking is a major risk factor in the development of age-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The serotonin transporter (SERT) gene polymorphism has been reported to be associated with COPD, and the degree of cigarette smoking has been shown to be a significant mediator in this relationship. The interrelation between circulating serotonin (5-hydroxytyptamine, 5-HT), cigarette smoking and COPD is however largely unknown. The current study aimed at investigating the mediation effects of plasma 5-HT on cigarette smoking-induced COPD and the relation between plasma 5-HT levels and age.
The association between plasma 5-HT, age and COPD was analyzed in a total of 62 COPD patients (ever-smokers) and 117 control subjects (healthy non-smokers and ever-smokers). Plasma 5-HT levels were measured by enzyme-linked immuno assay (EIA).
The elevated plasma 5-HT levels were significantly associated with increased odds for COPD (OR = 1.221, 95% CI = 1.123 to 1.319, p<0.0001). The effect remained significant after being adjusted for age and pack-years smoked (OR = 1.271, 95% CI = 1.134 to 1.408, p = 0.0003). Furthermore, plasma 5-HT was found to mediate the relation between pack-years smoked and COPD. A positive correlation (r = 0.303, p = 0.017) was found between plasma 5-HT levels and age in COPD, but not in the control subjects (r = −0.149, p = 0.108).
Our results suggest that cigarette smoke-induced COPD is partially mediated by the plasma levels of 5-HT, and that these become elevated with increased age in COPD. The elevated plasma 5-HT levels in COPD might contribute to the pathogenesis of this disease.
PMCID: PMC3272036  PMID: 22319639

Results 1-2 (2)