Assessment of the cortisol awakening response: Summary of the ISPNE expert consensus guidelines

Tobias Stalder, Clemens Kirschbaum, Brigette Kudielka, Emma Adam, Jens Pruessner, Stefan Wust, Samantha Dockray, Nina Smyth, Phil Evans, Dirk Hellhammer, Robert Miller, Mark Wetherell, Sonia Lupien, Angela Clow

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The cortisol awakening response (CAR), the marked increase in cortisol secretion over the first 30–45 min after morning awakening, has been related to a wide range of psychosocial, physical and mental health parameters, making it a key variable for psychoneuroendocrinological research. The CAR is typically assessed from self-collection of saliva samples within the domestic setting. While this confers ecological validity, it lacks direct researcher oversight which can be problematic as the validity of CAR measurement critically relies on participants closely following a timed sampling schedule, beginning with the moment of awakening. Researchers assessing the CAR thus need to take important steps to maximize and monitor saliva sampling accuracy as well as consider a range of other relevant methodological factors. To promote best practice of future research in this field, the International Society of Psychoneuroendocrinology initiated an expert panel charged with (i) summarizing relevant evidence and collective experience on methodological factors affecting CAR assessment and (ii) formulating clear consensus guidelines for future research. This presentation will give a summary of the main results of this undertaking. Consensus guidelines are presented on central aspects of CAR assessment, including objective control of sampling accuracy/adherence, participant instructions, covariate accounting, sampling protocols, quantification strategies as well as reporting and interpreting of CAR data. Meeting these methodological standards in future research will create more powerful research designs, thus yielding more reliable and reproducible results and helping to further advance understanding in this evolving field of research.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Aug 2016
Event46th ISPNE Conference - Miami
Duration: 11 Aug 2016 → …


Conference46th ISPNE Conference
Period11/08/16 → …


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