Salivary alpha-amylase response to competition: relation to gender, previous experience, and attitudes

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2006 Jul;31(6):703-14. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2006.01.007. Epub 2006 Apr 18.


This study examined individual differences in salivary alpha-amylase response to competition in relation to gender, previous experience, behavior, attitudes, and performance. Participants were 42 (21 women) members of a collegiate crew team. Saliva samples were collected before, 20- and 40-min post-ergometer competition and at the same times on a non-competition day for comparison. Samples were assayed for salivary biomarkers of sympathetic nervous system (alpha-amylase) and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (cortisol) activity. Behavioral assessments included self-reports of dominance, competitiveness, bonding with teammates, competition-related strategic thinking, and performance. On average, salivary alpha-amylase increased 156% in response to the ergometer competition. By comparison, cortisol increased 87% across the same time period. Salivary alpha-amylase was higher across the competition for varsity than for novice athletes, and was positively associated with performance and interest in team-bonding. Regression analyses revealed that alpha-amylase reactivity explained individual differences in dominance and team bonding above and beyond that associated with cortisol reactivity, and that joint inactivation in alpha-amylase and cortisol reactivity to competition (low-low) was associated with high perceived dominance. The findings are among the first to integrate salivary alpha-amylase into the study of competition and reveal that intra-individual change in alpha-amylase may be influenced by a confluence of factors that include contextual, behavioral, and psychological factors and processes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude*
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Psychology
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Reference Values
  • Regression Analysis
  • Role
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Self Concept
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Dominance
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / psychology
  • alpha-Amylases / metabolism*


  • alpha-Amylases