Exogenous Cortisol Administration; Effects on Risk Taking Behavior, Exercise Performance, and Physiological and Neurophysiological Responses

Caroline V. Robertson, Maarten A. Immink, Frank E. Marino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Rationale: Exogenous cortisol is a modulator of behavior related to increased motivated decision making (Putman et al., 2010), where risky choices yield potentially big reward. Making risk based judgments has been shown to be important to athletes in optimizing pacing during endurance events (Renfree et al., 2014; Micklewright et al., 2015).Objectives: Therefore, the aims of this study were to examine the effect of 50 mg exogenous cortisol on neurophysiological responses and risk taking behavior in nine healthy men. Further to this, to examine the effect of exogenous cortisol on exercise performance. Methods: Using a double blind counterbalanced design, cyclists completed a placebo (PLA), and a cortisol (COR) trial (50 mg cortisol), with drug ingestion at 0 min. Each trial consisted of a rest period from 0 to 60 min, followed by a risk taking behavior task, a 30 min time trial (TT) with 5×30 s sprints at the following time intervals; 5, 11, 17, 23, and 29 min. Salivary cortisol (SaCOR), Electroencephalography (EEG) and Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRs) were measured at 15, 30, 45, and 60 min post-ingestion. Glucose and lactate samples were taken at 0 and 60 min post-ingestion. During exercise, power output (PO), heart rate (HR), EEG, and NIRS were measured. SaCOR was measured 10 min post-exercise. Results: Cortisol increased risk taking behavior from baseline testing. This was in line with significant neurophysiological changes at rest and during exercise. At rest, SaCOR levels were higher (P < 0.01) in COR compared to PLA (29.7 ± 22.7 and 3.27 ± 0.7 nmol/l, respectively). At 60 min alpha slow EEG response was higher in COR than PLA in the PFC (5.5 ± 6.4 vs. -0.02 ± 8.7% change; P < 0.01). During the TT there was no difference in total km, average power or average sprint power, although Peak power (PP) achieved was lower in COR than PLA (465.3 ± 83.4 and 499.8 ± 104.3; P < 0.05) and cerebral oxygenation was lower in COR (P < 0.05).Conclusion: This is the first study to examine the effect of exogenous cortisol on exercise performance. These results are in line with previous research showing altered risk taking behavior following exogenous cortisol, however the altered behavior did not translate into changes in exercise performance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number640
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Volume7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • BART test
  • Exercise performance
  • Exogenous cortisol
  • Neurophysiological responses
  • Risk taking

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