The role of DHEA in relation to problem solving and academic performance

Biol Psychol. 2010 Sep;85(1):53-61. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2010.05.003. Epub 2010 May 26.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has been correlated with lower susceptibility to anxiety and mood disturbance. Since coping styles have been shown to be a critical component of academic achievement, we aimed to assess the relationship between DHEA and coping mechanisms in college students. Participants were recruited and tested twice, one week apart. Cardiovascular measurements and saliva samples were taken for each participant. The behavioral task consisted of a set of anagrams of increasing difficulty (possible to impossible). American College Testing (ACT) scores, number of college courses failed and dropped along with current grade point average (GPA) were recorded. Results indicated that successfully coping with challenging tasks is a function of behavioral flexibility and physiological neuroprotection. When presented with challenging tasks, individuals who vary their behavioral response to fit the task's demands have the lowest probability of failing the task. The same individuals also have higher levels of resiliency hormones, demonstrated by a lower ratio of cortisol versus DHEA levels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Achievement*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / physiopathology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Self-Assessment
  • Young Adult


  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Hydrocortisone