Hormone could ease stress symptoms
August 04, 2004

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (United Press International) -- U.S. researchers said advance treatment with the hormone DHEA-S may protect people during stressful situations.

Researchers at the Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder -- part of the Veterans Affairs New England Healthcare System -- wanted to test if DHEA-S -- a natural hormone secreted by the adrenal glands -- is released in response to stress. If true, treatment with the hormone could reduce symptoms of depression and enhance memory, buffering patients from the effects of stressful events.

They studied 25 military recruits entering a mock prisoner-of-war camp. Five days before the training, the researchers took blood and saliva samples from the participants and measured both levels of DHEA-S and the ratio of DHEA-S to cortisol, another stress-related hormone. Participants also completed a survey rating their symptoms of dissociation, or how in touch -- or out of touch -- they felt with their environments.

During the training the trainees were confined and experienced food and sleep depravation. They were also were interrogated. Immediately after the 30-minute interrogation phase, blood and saliva samples were taken again, and participants filled out the same survey.

"The DHEA-S to cortisol ratios during stress were significantly higher in subjects who reported fewer symptoms of dissociation and exhibited superior military performance," the researchers reported.