This paper describes a protocol for induction of moderate psychological stress in a laboratory setting and evaluates its effects on physiological responses. The ‘Trier Social Stress Test’ (TSST) mainly consists of an anticipation period (10 min) and a test period (10 min) in which the subjects have to deliver a free speech and perform mental arithmetic in front of an audience. In six independent studies this protocol has been found to induce considerable changes in the concentration of ACTH, cortisol (serum and saliva), GH, prolactin as well as significant increases in heart rate. As for salivary cortisol levels, the TSST reliably led to 2- to 4-fold elevations above baseline with similar peak cortisol concentrations. Studies are summarized in which TSST-induced cortisol increases elucidated some of the multiple variables contributing to the interindividual variation in adrenocortical stress responses. The results suggest that gender, genetics and nicotine consumption can influence the individual’s stress responsiveness to psychological stress while personality traits showed no correlation with cortisol responses to TSST stimulation. From these data we conclude that the TSST can serve as a tool for psychobiological research.

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