A Stressful Semester
The Regulation of Cortisol Release
Biological Sciences Department
California State Polytechnic University at Pomona
This case study tells the story of “Claire,” an undergraduate student experiencing symptoms commonly attributed to stress as she juggles a demanding academic schedule, a part-time job, and the challenges that come from living away from home for the first time. After Claire’s primary care provider refers her to an endocrinologist, her test results reveal that she has a small pituitary adenoma that is secreting adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and causing her plasma concentration of cortisol to be high. Students are asked to relate Claire’s symptoms to the physiological consequences of excess cortisol secretion and to create a treatment plan for her Cushing’s disease. The case would be appropriate for use in undergraduate classes in human anatomy and physiology, human physiology, animal physiology, or endocrinology.
- Identify the functional zones of the adrenal cortex.
- Define stress.
- Describe the functions of cortisol.
- Explain how steroid hormones are transported in the blood.
- Recognize where steroid hormone receptors are located.
- Diagram negative feedback regulation of cortisol release.
- Recognize that cortisol secretion has a circadian rhythm.
- Differentiate between primary and secondary hypersecretion of a hormone.
- Differentiate between Cushing’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome.
- List the clinical symptoms of Cushing’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome.
- Relate the symptoms of Cushing’s disease to hypersecretion of cortisol.
- Formulate a treatment plan for a patient with Cushing’s disease.
KeywordsAdrenal cortex; cortisol; glucocorticoid; ACTH; HPA axis; Cushing’s disease; Cushing’s syndrome; steroid; physiological stress; stress; hormones; pituitary adenoma
Educational LevelUndergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Type / MethodsDirected, Discussion, Interrupted
Subject HeadingsBiology (General) | Physiology |
Case teaching notes are password-protected and access to them is limited to paid subscribed instructors. To become a paid subscriber, begin the process by registering.
Teaching notes are intended to help teachers select and adopt a case. They typically include a summary of the case, teaching objectives, information about the intended audience, details about how the case may be taught, and a list of references and resources.