The effects of hydrocortisone on facial emotion recognition and decision-making
When exposed to emotionally-arousing information, the stress system, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, releases the hormone cortisol, which binds to receptors in brain regions important for emotional processing and decision-making. Evidence exists that HPA-axis manipulation affects memory for emotional items, but not facial expression recognition. Few studies have been conducted on HPA-axis manipulation during decision-making under risk. This study aimed to understand these effects in healthy men and women by administering a high or low dose of hydrocortisone (synthetic cortisol) during one session and a placebo during another session prior to performing a computerized facial emotion recognition task, the Diagnostic Analysis of Nonverbal Accuracy 2, and a decision-making task, the Cambridge Gambling Task. Results indicate facial emotion recognition and decision-making performance was not significantly influenced by hydrocortisone infusion. However, interesting trends were noted for facial emotion recognition and decision-making under conditions of high physiological stress.