Stress and adult neurogenesis: neuroprotection by dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Mood disorders such as depression and post traumatic stress disorder are a major health concern in British Columbia, and around the world. Understanding the role of stress related to depression is a crucial step towards developing treatment strategies. From a biological perspective, stress-induced decreases in neuron (nerve cell) production in the adult brain have been associated with depressive symptoms. One line of research into treatment options is the use of a steroid hormone called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) which has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression. Steroid hormones are critical for the nervous system to develop and function normally, but relatively little is known about the actions of DHEA on the nervous system and how DHEA acts at the cellular and molecular level. Amy Newman is investigating how physiological levels of DHEA buffer the effect of stress in organisms in the brain. She is examining the effects of DHEA on stress-induced changes in the nervous system and on adult neurogenesis (development of nerve tissues). Ultimately, findings from this study may lead to the development of therapeutic advances to decrease neuronal loss in response to stress, and alleviate symptoms of depression.