Kolassa, Iris-Tatjana


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Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with an enhanced spontaneous production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by peripheral blood mononuclear cells

2013, Gola, Hannah, Engler, Harald, Sommershof, Annette, Adenauer, Hannah, Kolassa, Stephan, Schedlowski, Manfred, Gröttrup, Marcus, Elbert, Thomas, Kolassa, Iris-Tatjana

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is associated with an enhanced risk for cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases. Chronic low-level inflammation has been suggested as a potential mechanism linking these conditions. METHODS: We investigated plasma cytokine levels as well as spontaneous and lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-stimulated cytokine production by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in a group of 35 severely traumatized PTSD patients compared to 25 healthy controls. RESULTS: Spontaneous production of interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha by isolated PBMCs was significantly higher in the PTSD compared to the control group and even correlated with PTSD symptom severity within the PTSD group. In contrast, circulating plasma levels of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, TNF-alpha, or monocyte chemotactic protein (MCP)-1 were not significantly altered in PTSD patients compared to healthy controls.

Our findings indicate that PBMCs of PTSD patients are already pre-activated in vivo, providing further evidence for low-grade inflammation in PTSD. This might possibly represent one psychobiological pathway from PTSD to poor physical health.


Victims of rape show increased cortisol responses to trauma reminders : a study in individuals with war- and torture-related PTSD

2012-02, Gola, Hannah, Engler, Harald, Schauer, Maggie, Adenauer, Hannah, Riether, Carsten, Kolassa, Stephan, Elbert, Thomas, Kolassa, Iris-Tatjana

Studies investigating cortisol responses to trauma-related stressors in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have yielded inconsistent results, demonstrating that cortisol responses were enhanced or unaffected when confronted with trauma reminders. This study investigated the effect of the type of trauma experienced on both salivary and plasma cortisol responses during confrontation with trauma-related material. Participants were 30 survivors of war and torture, with and without rape among the traumatic events experienced. Participants of both groups (raped vs. non-raped) fulfilled DSM-IV criteria of PTSD. Plasma and salivary cortisol levels were measured at three time points during a standardized clinical interview: once before and twice after assessing individual traumatic experiences. Results show that groups did not differ in basal plasma and salivary cortisol levels. However, differential salivary cortisol responses were observed in PTSD patients who had been raped compared to those who had not been raped (p < .05) but had experienced an equal number of traumatic events and showed equally high PTSD symptom severity. Whereas salivary cortisol levels decreased in the course of the interview for the group with no past experience of rape (p < .05), those PTSD patients who had been raped showed a significant cortisol increase when reminded of their traumatic events (p < .001). This effect was not found in plasma cortisol. Our results indicate that the type of traumatic stress experienced contributes to cortisol responses during the confrontation with trauma-related material. We hypothesize, that the nearness of the perpetrator during the traumatic event might shape later psychophysiological responding to trauma reminders.


No PTSD-related differences in diurnal cortisol profiles of genocide survivors

2009, Eckart, Cindy, Engler, Harald, Riether, Carsten, Kolassa, Stephan, Elbert, Thomas, Kolassa, Iris-Tatjana

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been associated with reduced cortisol levels. Opposing results have been interpreted as resulting from methodological differences between studies.We investigated the diurnal profile of salivary cortisol in a population of highly traumatized adult males from Rwanda with and without PTSD, who spent the whole day of examination together under amaximally standardized schedule. Besides the detection of PTSDrelated alterations in cortisol release we aimed at determining physiologically relevant effects of cumulative trauma exposure on HPA functioning in interaction with or independent of diagnosis. There were no differences in the diurnal pattern of cortisol release between subjects with and without PTSD. We observed an increasing prevalence of PTSD with increasing number of different traumatic event types experienced, replicating earlier results on a building-block effect of multiple traumatization. However, size of cumulative exposure was not related to any of the cortisol measures. The results suggest that besides methodological constraints also confounding factors not previously controlled for, e.g., sex differences or current life stress, might contribute to the diverging results of lowered, unchanged or enhanced cortisol secretion in PTSD. Future research should therefore closely monitor these possible confounds to optimize models for cortisol in research on stress-dependent illnesses.