Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Renee Lajiness-O'Neill, PhD, Chair
Alissa Huth-Bocks, PhD
Dean Lauterbach, PhD
Velocardiofacial Syndrome (VCFS) is a genetic disorder characterized by numerous physiological and psychological symptoms. Little is known regarding the neuropsychological and hormonal substrates and the social functioning in individuals with VCFS. There is some evidence to suggest that the stress hormone cortisol contributes to social, cognitive, and communication deficits in related populations (Corbett, Schupp, Levine, & Mendoza, 2009). This study investigated the role that cortisol has on the social and cognitive impairments observed in children with VCFS. To this end, 11 children with confirmed VCFS were assessed for baseline cortisol levels and received neuropsychological testing that assessed attention, memory, language, and social functioning. These results were compared with the results from 11 controls that were matched according to age and sex. It was hypothesized that children with VCFS would have significantly higher baseline cortisol levels relative to control children. Additionally, these cortisol levels would be negatively correlated with measures of social functioning as measured by CBCL, ABAS-II, and RCMAS-2. Furthermore, it was hypothesized that cortisol levels would be negatively correlated with performance on cognitive tests. Specifically, it was hypothesized that cortisol levels in children with VCFS would be negatively correlated with tests of attention and memory as measured by the WRAML-2. Children with VCFS had significantly higher cortisol levels than control counterparts; F(1, 20) = 5.436, p < .05. Cortisol levels in VCFS were not related to measures of social functioning or measures of cognitive functioning. That said, a significant negative correlation was observed between the General Memory and Attention/Concentration indices of the WRAML-2 and cortisol concentrations in the control population: r(11) = -.78, p <.05; r (11) = -.62, p < .05. Additionally, the level of cortisol in control individuals was negatively correlated to the social competency scale of the CBCL; r(11) = -.64, p < .05. These results support the role of neurohormonal substrates such as cortisol in social impairment and cognitive functioning in neurotypical children. More generally, these data provide evidence of a possible causal mechanism that underlies social impairments in other stress disorders known to involve cortisol dysregulation. Furthermore, these data add to the understanding of the interaction between stress, cortisol, and cognition are indicative of possible treatment targets for cognitive and social interventions.
Jacobson, Daniel, "Role of Cortisol in Social and Memory Impairments in Individuals with Velocardiofacial Syndrome (VCFS)" (2011). Master's Theses and Doctoral Dissertations. Paper 338.