Adolescence the transition between childhood and adulthood is a period of remarkable physiological psychological and social change. with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have shown more variable diurnal regulation and a pattern of enhanced responsivity to stress. There is also evidence of more marked reactivity over development suggesting that adolescence may be a time of increased risk for enhanced physiological arousal and social stress. The following review briefly summarizes the literature to date on autism adolescence and salivary cortisol. The current summary suggests that enhanced study of the interplay between social functioning and stress during the adolescent period in ASD is warranted. Introduction Adolescence is a time of remarkable physiological psychological and social change in both typical and atypical populations. Due to the many changes that define it adolescence has often been described as a time of “storm and stress” (1). During this developmental period pubertal maturation contributes to significant changes in morphology cognition emotion regulation and physiological stress responsivity (e.g. (2 3 In typical development adolescence is a time of increased awareness and interest in both peer and romantic relationships (e.g. (4)). It also represents a time of dramatic rise in psychopathology and depression which have been associated with dysregulation of stress systems such as the HPA axis (e.g. (3)). While frequently used interchangeably adolescence and puberty represent distinct maturational phenomena. Adolescence strictly defined is the developmental transition of juvenile social and cognitive processes to their adult versions. Puberty refers to biological maturation particularly that of sexual systems and the physiological effects of resultant changes to the endocrine system (5). The Interplay between these two Rabbit polyclonal to PNKP. systems is however critical for appropriate and complete development into adulthood (6). The HPA Axis Stress and Anxiety The HPA axis is involved in the regulation of several biological processes and interactions including physiological response to stress (7). Cortisol is the primary stress hormone in humans and is released from the adrenal cortices following activation of the HPA axis in response to extreme physiological or psychological stress (7 8 Cortisol has a normal circadian rhythm with a peak early in the morning followed by a sharp increase referred to as the cortisol awakening Methazathioprine response consequent declining values throughout the day and the lowest levels in the evening. The system can be activated by both actual and perceived threat. In regards to the latter there exist Methazathioprine four primary psychological determinants that induce a stress response Methazathioprine which include conditions of novelty unpredictability uncontrollability and social evaluative threat (9 10 the response to each of which varies based on environmental idiosyncratic and developmental factors. Stress and anxiety are common responses to the environment and both are frequently adaptive mechanisms to everyday life. If stress or anxiety are experienced in an excessive and uncontrollable manner however they can become pathological (11). For the purpose of this review anxiety encompasses the anticipatory and apprehensive cognitive activity related to events for which a person is exposed. Stress refers to the physiological reactivity in response to events including activation of primary stress systems such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. While in many circumstances these states are highly correlated to each other they are not synonymous and disjunction between the two does occur. Children with autism for example show a lack of correspondence between stress and anxiety in various circumstances (12). Adolescence and the HPA Axis Methazathioprine A variety of physiological changes coincide with the dynamic transition from childhood to adolescence including in the regulation and Methazathioprine responsivity of the HPA axis. Characterization of physiological change in this system across the adolescent transition in standard and atypical development is important for characterizing developmental variance (13) as well as marking the end of child years and the beginning of adult biological reactions (14). The HPA axis by nature is definitely adaptive to environmental switch; yet.