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Assignment Overview

Cortisol is an important hormone that is released in the stress response. In this module assignment, we will look at this hormone more closely to investigate:

  1. the molecular composition of cortisol
  2. the signaling pathway that elicits the production and release of cortisol
  3. the cellular-, organ-, and organ system-level response that results from this cell signal

Case Assignment

Read the following articles:

The Physiology of Stress: Cortisol and the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. Randall, M. 2011. Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science.


The Relationship between Traumatic Stress, PTSD and Cortisol. Delaney, E. Naval Center for Combat & Operational Stress Control.

After reading these articles, develop a 10–15 slide presentation in the following format.

Slides 1 and 2: The cascade of hormonal signals described by the section titled “Neurochemistry of Stress” of the Randall (2011) article. Use simple ovals or circles to depict the regions that release specific hormones in the hormone cascade that results in the release of cortisol. Label the hormones and regions and organs involved using textboxes (both options appear in the “Insert” tab of the PowerPoint program).

Slides 3 and 4: Label and diagram the kidney and adrenal gland. Include the following:

  • Adrenal gland: cortex and medulla; regions associated with hormone production and release; hormones released in each region
  • Kidney: cortex and medulla; region of water absorption and filtering; region of urine collection

Slide 5: Diagram and label the HPA axis. Include the hormones released by each component and their effect on the target organ(s).

Slide 6: Using your diagram from Slide 5, include the location of the hippocampus and the negative feedback loop that occurs when the hippocampus detects high cortisol levels. In the notes section, include a brief description of the effects associated with elevated cortisol exposure to the hippocampus.

Slide 7: Using bulleted points, list factors that exacerbate the stress response through activation of the HPA axis.

Slide 8–10: Do some additional research on PTSD. Diagram the regions of the brain believed to be involved with symptoms of PTSD. Explain the relationship between PTSD and depression and include relevant regions of the brain in your labeled regions.

Slides 11–13: In bulleted points, summarize the varied findings in the studies described in the article, “The Relationship between Traumatic Stress, PTSD and Cortisol.” Include the relationships found between cortisol levels and individuals with PTSD. In the notes include some explanations from the article for the variability in cortisol levels in these individuals. Explain the limitations of these studies mentioned by the author at the end of the article.

Slides 14 and 15: references cited, additional notes if necessary

Assignment Expectations

For this Case Assignment you will develop a PowerPoint presentation that is approximately 15 slides in length and addresses the requirements outlined above. Place the text containing the answers to the questions above in the Notes section of your slide presentation. Reference all of your answers in your Notes sections with citations, such as (Murray 2014). Your slides should contain labeled images that illustrate the text that you included in your Notes sections. Do a Google search that includes the term “image” to find diagrams of the required organs and systems (e.g., search for “adrenal gland image”). Provide the website or reference used for each labeled image. Be sure your last slide is a references slide that contains the full references cited on your slides. Many resources are provided for you. Include these in your references section. This assignment should not require much independent research.

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