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Neuropsychobiology. 2016;73(3):178-83. doi: 10.1159/000444922. Epub 2016 Apr 22.

Sex Steroids and Major Psychoses: Which Role for DHEA-S and Progesterone.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Milan, Fondazione IRCCS Ca' Granda Ospedale Maggiore Policlinico, Milan, Italy.



Endocrine pathways seem to play a role in the etiology of major psychoses. The identification of biomarkers associated with psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia (SKZ) and mood disorders would allow the identification of high-risk subjects for delusions and hallucinations. The aim of this study was to evaluate dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) and progesterone plasma levels in drug-free patients with major psychoses and their relation with the diagnosis and history of psychotic symptoms.


Eighty-nine consecutive drug-free male inpatients with SKZ or mood disorders were recruited, and DHEA-S and progesterone plasma levels were measured. The groups, divided according to pathological/normal-range hormone levels, were compared in terms of clinical variables using x03C7;2 tests with Bonferroni's corrections or multivariate analyses of variance. The same analyses were performed for groups divided according to the presence/absence of lifetime psychotic symptoms. Binary logistic regression analysis was performed using hormone levels as independent variables and history of lifetime psychotic symptoms as a dependent one.


A higher number of patients with abnormal DHEA-S levels was found to have a family history of major depressive disorder (p < 0.05). Higher DHEA-S levels (F = 8.31; p = 0.005) were found in patients with a history of psychotic symptoms. In addition, binary logistic regression confirmed that DHEA-S levels were associated with a higher probability of lifetime psychotic symptoms (p = 0.037).


Our results confirm previous data about the role of endocrine factors in the etiology of major psychoses. A high DHEA-S level might be a risk factor for psychotic symptoms. Studies with larger samples are needed to confirm these data.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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