Human salivary alpha-amylase reactivity in a psychosocial stress paradigm

Int J Psychophysiol. 2005 Mar;55(3):333-42. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2004.09.009.


Biological indicators for stress reactions are valuable markers in psychophysiological research and clinical practice. Since the release of salivary enzyme alpha-amylase was reported to react to physiological and psychological stressors, we set out to investigate human salivary alpha-amylase changes employing a reliable laboratory stress protocol to investigate the reactivity of salivary alpha-amylase to a brief period of psychosocial stress. In a within-subject repeated-measures design, 24 healthy adults were exposed to the TSST and a control condition on separate days with randomized sequence. Salivary alpha-amylase, salivary cortisol and heart rate were repeatedly measured before, during and after both conditions. Significant differences between psychosocial stress and the rest condition in alpha-amylase activity [F(3.74,86.06)=4.52; P=0.003], cortisol levels [F(4.21,88.32)=12.48; P<0.001] and heart rate [F(1,22)=81.15; P<0.001] were observed, with marked increases before and after stress. The data corroborate findings from other studies that showed increased levels of alpha-amylase before and after psychological stress. We discuss the role of salivary alpha-amylase as a promising candidate for a reliable, noninvasive marker of psychosocial stress.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Enzyme Activation / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Saliva / enzymology*
  • Salivation / physiology
  • Stress, Psychological / enzymology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • alpha-Amylases / biosynthesis
  • alpha-Amylases / metabolism*


  • alpha-Amylases