Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine

Living Edition
| Editors: Marc Gellman


  • Tobias StalderEmail author
  • Clemens Kirschbaum
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6439-6_171-2


Cortisol (or “hydrocortisone”) is a steroid hormone and the major glucocorticoid in humans. It is produced in the adrenal cortex and is predominantly regulated by the neuroendocrine hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Cortisol fulfills vital functions in the regulation of various homeostatic processes and is particularly well-known for its role in the body’s response to physical and psychological stress. This together with its high potency and ubiquitous effects make cortisol a hormone of prime interest for research in the area of behavioral medicine.


Biosynthesis and Basic Characteristics

Cortisol is mainly synthesized and secreted from the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex. In addition, several extra-adrenal organs also produce smaller amounts of cortisol (e.g., thymus, intestine, brain, and skin) which are assumed to mainly act in a paracrine and autocrine mode (Talabér et al. 2013). The main precursor for the production of cortisol is cholesterol...

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References and Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University SiegenSiegenGermany
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyTechnische Universität DresdenDresdenGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Frank J. Penedo
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Medical Social Sciences, Psychology and Psychiatry & Behavioral SciencesNorthwestern UniversityChicagoUSA