What is cortisol?

One hormone that is of particular interest in depression is the stress hormone cortisol (rodents use the hormone corticosterone rather than cortisol, so human studies measure cortisol while many animal ones measure corticosterone). Cortisol is released at the end of a cascade of hormones.

Cortisol itself then can travel around the body having lots of effects. For example, it helps prepare muscles in our arms and legs get ready to run away or flight a threat. Cortisol also has effects on the brain. Some cortisol can lead to our thinking being faster and more accurate and our memories being better. Too much cortisol can have the opposite effects.

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