Title of project

The Relationship Between DHEA and Depression

Faculty Advisor

John Pellegrini, Stacy Symons


Biology and Psychology

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The Relationship Between DHEA and Depression

Depression is a highly prevalent mood disorder that affects women twice as often as men. Neurosteroids such as dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) have been shown to affect mood and modulate the GABAA receptor, suggesting that it may play a role in depression. Recent efforts have been made to establish the relationship between salivary DHEA and symptoms of depression, though no studies have examined a female undergraduate sample to date. Female undergraduate participants were assessed for symptoms of depression and levels of salivary DHEA. They completed the Beck Depression Inventory and provided saliva samples, which were analyzed using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to quantify salivary DHEA concentration. Participants were also asked about current medication usage for treatment of psychiatric disorders. These results were correlated with total number of symptoms of depression to determine whether there is a relationship between salivary DHEA and number of depressive symptoms. Possible implications on etiology and treatment of depression are discussed. We suggest that future research into DHEA and depression should begin to incorporate other measures of DHEA action such as steroidogentic enzyme activity or mRNA levels in order to elucidate how levels of DHEA may be influencing depressive symptoms.