Brain Hormones, Inattention and ADHD

Brain hormone levels are related to Inattention, to ADHD symptoms and to other mental health problems. Levels of DHEA have been linked to ADHD, levels of cortisol have been linked to anxiety and depression and levels of testosterone have been linked to Conduct disorders.

There exist a relationship between brain steroids, neurotransmitters and the regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Researchers understand the role of the HPA axis and anxiety and depression but they are only now learning the effects of the HPA axis on other mental health problems.

It is clear that the steroid hormones play an important role in the regulation of brain function. Steroid brain function is regulated by a number of factors including our genes. Recent genetic studies have found that deletions in the steroid sulfatase (STS) gene are associated with ADHD risk and specifically with the Inattentive subtype of ADHD. Interestingly, a genetic disorder called X-Linked ichthyosis, or Steroid Sulfatase Deficiency, causes skin scaling and other problems but new studies have found that people with STS deficiency have an increased incidence of ADHD Inattentive type.

The STS gene is involoved in the transformation of hormones such as estrone sulfate and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAs), to the non-sulfated steroids estradiol and androstenediol. The STS gene is also involved in steroid production as well as the conversion of sulfated steroids in other tissues.

A new study, published in the latest edition of the Psychoneuroendocrinology Journal, has confirmed the relationship between levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and ADHD symptoms. This new study is not the first study to show a correlation between DHEA and DHEAS and ADHD.

Levels of DHEA and DHEAS have been found to be low in patients with high levels of hyperactivity and Ritalin has been shown to increase brain DHEAs in patients with ADHD. Some researchers have suggested that higher brain steroid levels such as higher levels of DHEA and DHEAS somehow protect the brain from the symptoms of ADHD.

You may be thinking that these studies point to the fact that taking supplemental DHEA should help ADHD. Before you go out and buy a DHEA supplement, however, you should know that while there is good evidence that DHEA supplements are safe, there is little to no evidence from controlled trials that DHEA or DHEAs supplements helps cognitive functioning or ADHD.

Brain Hormones play a role in ADHD. The biology of brain hormones is complex. There is a relationship between brain hormones, neurotransmitters and the regulation of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The role of the specific brain hormones and the STS gene in the symptoms of Inattentive ADHD and in the Combined and Hyperactive/Impulsive subtype of ADHD are being studied.  Further research should give more guidance regarding the treatment of ADHD using supplements, medication or other treatment modalities that affect the hormones in our brains

Psychoneuroendocrinology Journal. 2011 Mar 14.
Association of salivary dehydroepiandrosterone levels and symptoms in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder during six months of treatment with methylphenidate. Wang LJ, Hsiao CC, Huang YS, Chiang YL, Ree SC, Chen YC, Wu YW, Wu CC, Shang ZY, Chen CK. Department of Psychiatry, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at Keelung, Keelung, Taiwan; Chang Gung University School of Medicine, Taoyuan, Taiwan.

Genes Brain Behavior. 2011 Jan 24. Steroid sulfatase is a potential modifier of cognition in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Stergiakouli E, Langley K, Williams H, Walters J, Williams NM, Suren S, Giegling I, Wilkinson LS, Owen MJ, O'Donovan MC, Rujescu D, Thapar A, Davies W.

International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology. 2001 Sep;4(3):259-64.
Analysis of neurosteroid levels in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Strous RD, Spivak B, Yoran-Hegesh R, Maayan R, Averbuch E, Kotler M, Mester R, Weizman A.

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