Relationships among plasma dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate and cortisol levels, symptoms of dissociation, and objective performance in humans exposed to acute stress

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;61(8):819-25. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.61.8.819.


Context: Recently, a growing body of research has provided evidence that dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) is involved in an organism's response to stress and that it may provide beneficial behavioral and neurotrophic effects.

Objective: To investigate plasma DHEA-S and cortisol levels, psychological symptoms of dissociation, and military performance.

Design: Prospective study.

Setting and participants: Twenty-five healthy subjects enrolled in military survival school.

Results: The DHEA-S-cortisol ratios during stress were significantly higher in subjects who reported fewer symptoms of dissociation and exhibited superior military performance.

Conclusions: These data provide prospective, empirical evidence that the DHEA-S level is increased by acute stress in healthy humans and that the DHEA-S-cortisol ratio may index the degree to which an individual is buffered against the negative effects of stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / analysis
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood*
  • Dissociative Disorders / blood
  • Dissociative Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Problem Solving
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Regression Analysis
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Stress, Psychological / blood*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Task Performance and Analysis


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate
  • Hydrocortisone