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Vitam Horm. 2018;108:413-441. doi: 10.1016/bs.vh.2018.01.022. Epub 2018 Mar 9.

Dehydroepiandrosterone and Dehydroepiandrosterone-Sulfate and Emotional Processing.

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Hospital de Santa Maria, Centro Hospitalar Lisboa Norte, EPE, Lisboa, Portugal; Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal. Electronic address:
Institute of Neurosciences, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain; Brainlab-Cognitive Neuroscience Research Group, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain; Institut de Recerca Sant Joan de Déu, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.


Steroid hormones are important regulators of brain development, physiological function, and behavior. Among them, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEAS) also do modulate emotional processing and may have mood enhancement effects. This chapter reviews the studies that bear relation to DHEA and DHEAS [DHEA(S)] and brain emotional processing and behavior. A brief introduction to the mechanisms of action and variations of DHEA(S) levels throughout life has also been forward in this chapter. Higher DHEA(S) levels may reduce activity in brain regions involved in the generation of negative emotions and modulate activity in regions involved in regulatory processes. At the electrophysiological level, higher DHEA-to-cortisol and DHEAS-to-DHEA ratios were related to shorter P300 latencies and shorter P300 amplitudes during the processing of negative stimuli, suggesting less interference of negative stimuli with the task and less processing of the negative information, which in turn may suggest a protective mechanism against negative information overload. Present knowledge indicates that DHEA(S) may play a role in cortical development and plasticity, protecting against negative affect and depression, and at the same time enhancing attention and overall working memory, possibly at the cost of a reduction in emotional processing, emotional memory, and social understanding.


Attention; Cortisol; Dehydroepiandrosterone; Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate; Depression; Emotion processing; Emotional memory; Event-related potentials; Neuroimaging

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