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DHEA found to increase performance under stress

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Stress in soldiers

A study from researchers at University School of Medicine and the VA National Center for PTSD shows that DHEA can contribute to stress resiliency. The hormone, secreted in response to stress, was found to enhance performance of soldiers during a final underwater navigation exam, compared to soldiers with less DHEA.

The study, led by Dr. Charles A. Morgan III and his colleagues, is the first to show the beneficial effects of dehydroepiandrosterone, in humans. The findings are being published August 15 in Biological Psychiatry.

Soldiers with more DHEA had were able to navigate better underwater, a task that depends on how well the hippocampus of the brain functions. Dr. Morgan explains, "Animal studies have shown that DHEA buffers against stress, in part, by modulating receptors in this region of the brain”. The hippocampus plays a role in long-term memory and spatial navigation, and is one of the primary areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

The authors suggest DHEA could help military personnel, firefighters, and police deal with stress.

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Dr. Morgan says,” These findings are important in understanding why and how soldiers may differ in their ability to tolerate stress and also raise the possibility that, in the future, compounds like DHEA might be used to protect military personnel from the negative impact of operational stress."

DHEA was found to increase performance under stress among special operations soldiers enrolled in the military Combat Diver Qualification Course (CDQC). Researchers have been trying to understand what makes some people more resilient under extreme duress. The new study shows that DHEA may play an important role in increasing performance under stress.

Source: SOBP

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Updated January 22, 2014