Possible role of cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone in human development and psychopathology
Goodyer IM., Park RJ., Netherton CM., Herbert J.
Background: The characteristics of adrenal hormone secretion change markedly during infancy. Disturbances in basal levels may precipitate psychological dysfunction and are associated with psychopathology in young people. Aims: To relate three aspects of behavioural endocrinology: developmental changes in cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the role of these hormones in the psychopathology of young people, and the action of these steroids in the brain. Method: A selective review from the human developmental, psychiatric and neurosciences literature. Results: There are developmentally mediated changes in brain sensitivity following excess exposure to cortisol. This may result in impairments of mental and behavioural function. DHEA and gonadal steroids may modulate the actions of cortisol. Conclusions: Steroid hormones contribute to shaping behavioural function during early development and act as risk factors for psychopathology.