Temporal associations between salivary cortisol and emotions in clinically depressed individuals and matched controls: A dynamic time warp analysis

Anne Sophie C.A.M. Koning, Sanne H. Booij, Onno C. Meijer, Harriëtte Riese, Erik J. Giltay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Depression can be understood as a complex dynamic system where depressive symptoms interact with one another. Cortisol is suggested to play a major role in the pathophysiology of depression, but knowledge on the temporal interplay between cortisol and depressive symptoms is scarce. We aimed to analyze the temporal connectivity between salivary cortisol and momentary affective states in depressed individuals and controls. Thirty pair-matched depressed and non-depressed participants completed questionnaires on momentary positive (PA) and negative (NA) affect and collected saliva three times a day for 30 days. The association between cortisol and affect was analyzed by dynamic time warp (DTW) analyses. These analyses involved lag-1 backward to lag-1 forward undirected analyses and lag-0 and lag-1 forward directed analyses. Large inter- and intra-individual variability in the networks were found. At the group level, with undirected analysis PA and NA were connected in the networks in depressed individuals and in controls. Directed analyses indicated that increases in cortisol preceded specific NA items in controls, but tended to follow upon specific affect items increase in depressed individuals. To conclude, at group level, changes in cortisol levels in individuals diagnosed with a depression may be a result of changes in affect, rather than a cause.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106394
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2023


  • Complex dynamic systems
  • Depression
  • Dynamic time warping
  • Emotions
  • Network theory
  • Time series

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