Memory Loss and Adrenal Hormones

Numerous animal studies have shown that the adrenal hormone DHEA and its sulfate form, DHEA-S, protect the brain from neuronal damage and enhance memory function.1-3 In humans, low DHEA-S correlates with the presence of organic brain syndrome in elderly men, and with Alzheimer's disease in both men and women.4-5 Although a recent study found that DHEA replacement did not influence cognitive performance in a group of healthy elderly individuals,6 this may be because DHEA-S affects brain function through its balancing effect on the adrenal hormone cortisol.

Cortisol is released in response to stress, and over secretion of this powerful hormone can impair memory function, even in healthy adults.7 For this reason, researchers believe that changes in cortisol responses caused by acute or chronic stress could be a contributing factor underlying the loss of memory associated with aging.8 Patients with chronically high levels of cortisol show accelerated degeneration of the hippocampus, a region of the brain for proper cognitive function and emotional well-being.9

DHEA-S, on the other hand, because it functions as an anti-glucocorticoid, can block some of the effects of cortisol in the processes that mediate learning and memory.10

The Adrenocortex Stress Profile provides a complete 24-hour circadian analysis of cortisol and an assay of DHEA-S, revealing imbalances of adrenal hormones that could be playing an important role in preserving the integrity of memory function.

1 Flood JF, Roberts E. Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate improves memory in aging mice. Brain Res 1988 448(1):178-181.
2 Melchior CL, Ritzmann RF. Neurosteroids block the memory-impairing effects of ethanol in mice.
3 Roberts, E, Bologa L, Flood JF, Smith GE. Effects of dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate on brain tissue in culture and on memory in mice. Brain Res 1987 406(1-2):357-362.
4 Rudman D, Shetty KR, Mattson DE. Plasma dehydropepiandrosterone sulfate in nursing home men. J Am Geriatr Soc 1990;38(4):421-427.
5 Nasman B, Olsson T, Backstron T, Eriksson S, Grankvist K, Viitanen M, Bucht G. Serum dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate in Alzheimer's disease and in multi-infarct dementia. Biol Psychiatry 1991;30(7):684-690.
6 Wolf OT, Neumann O, Hellhammer DH, Geiben AC, Strasburger CJ, Dressendorfer RA, et. al. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1997;82(7):2363-2367.
7 Kirschbaum C, Wolf OT, May M, Wippich W, Hellhammer DH. Stress- and treatment-induced elevations of cortisol levels associated with impaired declarative memory in healthy adults. Life Sci 1996;58(17):1475-1483.
8 Lupien SJ, Gaudreau S, Tchiteya BM, Maheu F, Sharma S, Naier NP, et. al. Stress-induced declarative memory impairment in healthy elderly subjects: relationship to cortisol reactivity. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1997;82(7):2070-5.
9 Sapolsky RM. Why stress is bad for your brain. Science 1996;273:749-750.
10 Fleshner M, Pugh CR, Tremblay D, Rudy JW. DHEA-S selectively impairs contextual-fear conditioning: support for the antiglucocorticoid hypothesis. Behav Neurosci 1997;111(3):512-517.

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Teresa Rispoli has her Ph.D. in Nutrition, is a licensed Acupuncturist and clinical researcher. She has been in practice for well over 25 years. It is through her clinical practice that she has gained insights into chronic health conditions. If you are suffering from unexplained symptoms that come and go you owe it to yourself to find out why. Find out today call for a Nutritional Consultation with Dr. Rispoli.

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