Hypothatlamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis 


We all experience challenging and sometimes stressful situations in life. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the body's major system that both responds and helps you cope with stress. The HPA axis also has key roles in the body's other systems including reproduction, cognition, metabolism and the immune system.


Depression and anxiety are strongly associated with stress. Some people suffer from stress while others appear more resilient. The HPA group are examining genetic and family factors from pregnancy through to adolescence that may predispose people to different stress responses, and the relationship between stress response and mental health outcomes.


At 18 years of age, over 1000 Raine Study participants participated in the "challenge-me" study, which measured their hormonal responses (cortisol and adrenalin) to a challenging test. Blood and saliva samples were collected before and after the test to measure hormonal changes. Results show three distinct patterns of reaction to psychological stress. These patterns also vary with gender, smoking and body mass index. The group will examine how stressful events during pregnancy, childhood and adolescence affect this biological stress response. It is anticipated that this research will provide important information on the underlying mechanisms and impact of psychological stress responses in young adults, offering unique opportunities for intervention and prevention.


Research Team

A/Professor Craig Pennell MBBS PhD

Dr David Henley MBBS  PhD

Mrs Blagica Penova-Veselinovic MSc

Ms Carly Herbison BSc (Hons)

Ms Carol Wang BSc (Hons)

Mr Wei Ang BCM (Hons) MSc

Dr Chi Le-Ha MBBS


Professor Steve Lye

Dr Laura Anderson

University of Toronto, Canada


Professor Brian Walker

Professor Alan Wright

Professor Harry Campbell

Dr Igor Rudan

Dr Jim Wilson

Dr Caroline Hayward

Dr Jennifer Bolton

University of Edinburgh, UK


Professor Henning Tiemeier

Erasmus Medical Centre, The Netherlands



  • Carly Herbison, PhD Candidate
  • Dr Richard Maganga, MBBS, PhD Candidate (Collaboration with Steve Lye's lab in Toronto)