Androgens and Estrogens Mediate the Effects of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on Cognition in Post-Menopausal Women

Paper Title:
Androgens and estrogens mediate the effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on cognition in post-menopausal women.
Journal Link:
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0018506X03002393
Abstract:
Prior studies of the effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on cognition have produced complex and inconsistent results. We hypothesize that these results may arise, in part, because of DHEA’s metabolism into estrogens and androgens that produce opposing effects on cognition. Our study administered 50 mg of oral DHEA daily for 4 weeks in a placebo-controlled crossover design to six postmenopausal women. We measured blood levels of androgens (total testosterone, free testosterone, DHEA, DHEAS), estrogens (estradiol, estrone), and cognitive performance on recognition memory, perceptual identification, digit span memory, and visual attentional vigilance under both drug and placebo conditions. Multiple regression models incorporating the factors of age and body mass index (BMI) were used to ascertain the relation between sex steroids and cognitive performance. Our results demonstrated that estrogens produced a positive effect on recognition memory, while androgens produced a negative effect. This pattern reversed in perceptual identification with estrogens producing a negative effect and androgens producing a positive effect. In addition, BMI produced a negative effect on digit span memory, age produced a negative effect on perceptual identification, and androgens produced a negative effect on visual attentional vigilance. These results help, in part, to explain DHEA’s complex effects on cognition. The diverse effects of sex steroids across tasks underscore the importance of identifying the specific cognitive mechanisms influenced by sex steroids and emphasizes that one should not expect sex steroids to produce homogeneous effects across cognitive tasks.
Reference:
Hirshman, E., Meritt, P., Wang, C. C. L., Wierman, M., Budescu, D. V., Kohrt, W., Templin, J., & Bhasin, S. (2004). Androgens and estrogens mediate the effects of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) on cognition in post-menopausal women. Hormones and Behavior, 45, 144-155.