The hippocampus is rich in receptors for cortisol. So cortisol is very active in the hippocampus. But sustained high levels of cortisol cause damage to neurons. Cortisol disrupts cellular metabolism of hippocampal neurons and increases the vulnerability of neurons to a variety of insults.5,6 In addition, when cortisol is elevated chronically, there is a reduction in neurogenesis.7 In a nutshell, the damage from cortisol in the hippocampus has been suggested to be an example of sacrificing long-term function (i.e., memory function) for the sake of short-term survival.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones, and is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.
It functions to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate. It also decreases bone formation.
Hydrocortisone (INN, USAN, BAN) is a name for cortisol when it is used as a medication. Hydrocortisone is used to treat people who lack adequate naturally generated cortisol. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines needed in a basic health system.
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