Central pathways mediating testosterone effects on hypothalamic responses to stress

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a brain-hormone system that plays an important role in the body’s reaction to stress. The HPA axis controls the secretion of glucocorticoids – steroid hormones that are released from the adrenal glands during stressful episodes. In the short term, acute elevations in circulating glucocorticoids are beneficial, serving to meet the metabolic demands of stress by mobilizing energy stores. In the long term, however, chronic stress-induced elevations in glucocorticoids are implicated in several forms of systemic, neurodegenerative and affective disorders, including depression. Dr. Viau is working to determine the sites and mechanisms by which testosterone acts in the brain to regulate the HPA axis. Given the association of chronic stress with depression and the potency by which testosterone inhibits stress-HPA function, Dr. Viau is investigating where stress, testosterone, and depression intersect in the brain. Dr. Viau hopes his discoveries will be taken from the bench to the bedside, towards implementing sex steroid replacement as an adjunct to antidepressant therapy.