Cortisol and Behavior: The “Trier Mental Challenge Test” (TMCT) — First Evaluation of a New Psychological Stress Test

  • Clemens Kirschbaum
  • Oliver Diedrich
  • Jörg Gehrke
  • Stefan Wüst
  • Dirk Hellhammer
Part of the Applied Clinical Psychology book series (NSSB)


The activity of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is regulated by a variety of stimuli in mammals. Besides the well established circadian rhythm of HPA activity (Weitzman et al., 1971) pharmacological, physical, and psychological factors play a significant role in the secretion of Cortisol from the adrenal cortex (Mason, 1968; Rose, 1984; Gold et al., 1984; Luger et al., 1988; McEwen et al., 1987; Fuxe et al., 1989; Kirschbaum & Hellhammer, 1989). While several pharmacological and/or physical stimuli result in unspecific up-regulation of HPA activity, psychological stress appears to be followed by a release of Cortisol only if a specific pattern of situational variables and their perception by the individual is present. Novelty and unpredictability of the situation, anticipation of negative consequences and coping attempts (Mason, 1968) as well as personality traits influence the release of Cortisol under stress. For example in subjects under academic exam stress different Cortisol secretion patterns have been observed in type A vs. type B individuals (Jones et al., 1986), or between repression / sensitization and coping strategies (Hellhammer et al., 1985). Moreover, different specificity and consistency coefficients for the basic secretion of Cortisol observed at different times of the day (Kirschbaum et al., in press) further underscore the close interaction between situation and person characteristics in the regulation of Cortisol output.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Clemens Kirschbaum
    • 1
  • Oliver Diedrich
  • Jörg Gehrke
  • Stefan Wüst
  • Dirk Hellhammer
  1. 1.Department of Clinical and Physiological Psychology, Fb I - PsychologieUniversität TrierTrierGermany

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