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Darlene Kertes - University of Florida. Gainesville, FL, US

Darlene Kertes Darlene Kertes

Assistant Professor | University of Florida

Gainesville, FL, UNITED STATES

Darlene Kertes’ research examines the role of life experiences and epigenetic processes on activity of stress-sensitive systems.


Darlene Kertes’ research examines the role of life experiences and epigenetic processes on activity of a stress-sensitive neuroendocrine system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system.

Industry Expertise (2)



Areas of Expertise (2)



Media Appearances (5)

Is the Pandemic Making Us Age More Quickly?

Elemental  online


“Stress-sensitive hormones like cortisol perform a number of functions that are essential for life, and for normal maintenance and repair, which it does when stress levels are low,” says Darlene Kertes, PhD, an associate professor of developmental psychology and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Florida. These functions include helping to control blood pressure, immune functioning, inflammation, metabolism, and much else. “But when we are faced with major life stress, cortisol’s functions shift away from those maintenance roles and towards other functions that help us meet the challenge,” she explains.

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The Health Risks of Evening Stress

Elemental  online


Experts are focusing their attention on cortisol and hormonal changes in the body. Cortisol is often referred to as a “stress hormone” because its levels rise during periods of duress or anxiety. Along with helping the body prepare to meet a potential threat, cortisol also plays a role in settling down inflammation, says Darlene Kertes, a stress specialist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida. One of cortisol’s roles is to shift the activation of certain immune cells in ways that prevent inflammation from raging out of control. But when cortisol levels are chronically elevated, the hormone and immune systems that normally hold inflammation in check can get out of whack.

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Alachua County School Board adopts mask order for all in schools

WCJB  online


Dr. Darlene Kertes, a professor in developmental psychology at UF said, "I think that the key here is for the adults in the child's life to be having, to be giving clear and consistent messaging.

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Pet dogs help kids feel less stressed

ScienceDaily  online


Darlene Kertes and colleagues tested the commonly held belief that pet dogs provide social support for kids using a randomized controlled study -- the gold standard in research.

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Pet dogs help kids feel less stressed, study finds

UF News  online


Pet dogs provide valuable social support for kids when they’re stressed, according to a study by researchers from the University of Florida, who were among the first to document stress-buffering effects of pets for children. Darlene Kertes and colleagues tested the commonly held belief that pet dogs provide social support for kids using a randomized controlled study – the gold standard in research.

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Articles (5)

The impact of maternal stress on infant alpha-amylase is buffered by high infant regulation and low infant negative reactivity

Developmental Psychobiology

This study examined the main and interactive effects of maternal perceived stress and infant temperament—surgency, negative affectivity, and orienting/regulation—on infant salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) responses to stress. Saliva samples were collected prior to and following two naturalistic stressors: maternal separation conducted at 9 months and blood draw/immunizations conducted at 12 months.

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Epigenetics, gene expression, and stress in mothers and offspring in the Democratic Republic of Congo: A biocultural investigation of the intergenerational effects of stress

American Journal of Physical Anthropology

The field of social and behavioral epigenetics examines how social and behavioral experiences can cause epigenetically-driven changes in gene expression that in turn influence health and well-being. We work in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where 20 years of conflict and post-conflict violence have subjected women to extreme stress and sexual violence. We collected blood samples from mothers and their offspring at birth, plus follow-up samples from offspring up to five years of age, in three cohorts (2010 cohort, n=25; 2013 cohort , n=103, 2015 cohort, n=77).

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Putting a finger on the problem: Finger stick blood draw and immunization at the well-child exam elicit a cortisol response to stress among one-year-old children


Research examining stress reactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis in young children has historically been hampered by a lack of reliable methods to invoke a cortisol stress response. This report details an effective method of eliciting a cortisol rise in one-year-old children (N = 83) by modifying and combining two naturalistic stressors previously used with infants and children. Salivary cortisol levels were collected from children before and after a finger stick blood draw and immunizations performed during their one year well-child checkup at their pediatrician’s office.

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Protective Factors Buffer Life Stress and Behavioral Health Outcomes among High-Risk Youth

Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology

This study investigated internalizing problems, externalizing problems, and polydrug use among African-American youth residing in high-poverty neighborhoods, and tested the potential protective effects of religiosity, parental monitoring, and neighborhood collective efficacy on life stress and behavioral health outcomes (N = 576; 307 females; Mage = 16 years, SD = 1.44 years). A cumulative risk index reflected the combined effects of past year exposure to stressful life events, racial discrimination, and exposure to violence along with poor neighborhood ecology.

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Associations between maternal prenatal stress, methylation changes in IGF1 and IGF2, and birth weight

Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease

Maternal stress has been linked to low birth weight in newborns. One potential pathway involves epigenetic changes at candidate genes that may mediate the effects of prenatal maternal stress on birth weight. This relationship has been documented in stress-related genes, such as NR3C1. There is less literature exploring the effect of stress on growth-related genes. IGF1 and IGF2 have been implicated in fetal growth and development, though via different mechanisms as IGF2 is under imprinting control.

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Languages (1)

  • English

Affiliations (1)

  • Society for Research on Adolescence : Interdisciplinary Studies Committee Member