Slow neurobiological rhythms, such as the circadian secretion of glucocorticoid (GC) hormones, modulate a variety of body functions. Whether and how endocrine fluctuations also exert an influence on perceptual abilities is largely uncharted. Here, we show that phasic increases in GC availability prove beneficial to auditory discrimination. In an age-varying sample of N = 68 healthy human participants, we characterize the covariation of saliva cortisol with perceptual sensitivity in an auditory pitch discrimination task at five time points across the sleep-wake cycle. First, momentary saliva cortisol levels were captured well by the time relative to wake-up and overall sleep duration. Second, within individuals, higher cortisol levels just prior to behavioral testing predicted better pitch discrimination ability, expressed as a steepened psychometric curve. This effect of GCs held under a set of statistical controls. Our results pave the way for more in-depth studies on neuroendocrinological determinants of sensory encoding and perception.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)
DFG Research Classification Scheme
- 205-17 Endocrinology, Diabetology, Metabolism