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Biol Psychiatry. 1998 May 1;43(9):694-700.

Neuropsychiatric function and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in elderly women: a prospective study.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco, USA.



Though among the most abundant human steroid hormones, the physiologic role of dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate (DHEAS) is not known. Our goal was to determine if DHEAS is associated with cognition and mood in older women, and if baseline DHEAS levels are predictive of cognitive decline.


In a prospective cohort, we studied 394 randomly selected community-dwelling women, aged 65 years or older, currently enrolled in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. Subjects were administered a modified Mini-Mental State Exam, Trials B, Digit Symbol, and the Geriatric Depression Scale-Shortened (GDSS), at study onset and 4-6 years later. Serum was obtained at study initiation for DHEAS analysis.


DHEAS levels declined with age, as expected. There was no consistent association of DHEAS quartile or log DHEAS with any of the four outcomes, even after multivariate adjustment. Change in cognitive performance overtime was not associated with DHEAS levels. Analysis of the 32 women without any detectable DHEAS compared to those with detectable levels revealed higher measures on the GDSS (mean score 3.4 +/- 3.6 compared with 1.6 +/- 2.3, p = .028) and a higher percentage with depression (21.7% compared with 4.6%, p = .001).


Serum DHEAS is not a sensitive predictor of cognitive performance or decline on a selected neuropsychological battery in elderly community women; however, nondetectable levels may be associated with depression.

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