The International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology

Brief Report

Analysis of neurosteroid levels in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Rael D.  Strous  a1 c1, Baruch  Spivak  a2 a3, Rony  Yoran-Hegesh  a2 a3, Rachel  Maayan  a4, Elena  Averbuch  a2, Moshe  Kotler  a5, Roberto  Mester  a2 a3 and Abraham  Weizman  a3 a4 a6
a1 Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, PO Box 1, Beer Yaakov 70350, Israel
a2 Ness-Ziona Mental Health Center, PO Box 1, Ness-Ziona 74100, Israel
a3 Sackler School of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
a4 Laboratory of Biological Psychiatry, Felsenstein Medical Research Center, Beilinson Campus
a5 Ben Gurion University Faculty of Medicine, Beer Sheba, Petach Tikueh 49100, Israel
a6 Research Unit, Geha Psychiatric Hospital, Petach Tikueh 49100, Israel


Neurosteroids are important neuroactive substrates with demonstrated involvement in several neurophysiological and disease processes. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been associated with dysregulation of the catecholaminergic and serotonergic systems, however its relationship to irregularities or changes in neurosteroid levels remains unknown. We examined the relationship between blood levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), its principal precursor pregnenolone and its principal metabolite dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) in 29 young male subjects aged 7–15 years with DSM-IV criteria of ADHD. Subjects were evaluated by a specially designed scale, following which patients were divided into two groups according to severity of symptomatology. Results indicated significant inverse correlations between clinical symptomatology and levels of DHEA and pregnenolone in the total group. These inverse correlations were particularly evident in the less severe group of subjects. Levels of DHEA and DHEAS were inversely correlated with the hyperactivity subscale. Furthermore, using median blood levels as a cut-off indicator, higher blood levels of DHEA and DHEAS were associated with fewer ADHD symptoms, in particular hyperactivity symptomatology. Our findings suggest a possible protective effect of various neurosteroids on the expression of ADHD symptomatology.

(Received September 4 2000)
(Reviewed December 10 2000)
(Revised March 12 2001)
(Accepted March 20 2001)

Key Words: ADHD; dehydroepiandrosterone; dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate; GABAA; neurosteroids.

c1 Address for correspondence: Dr R. D. Strous, Beer Yaakov Mental Health Center, PO Box 1, Beer Yaakov 70350, Israel. Tel.: 972-54-628254 Fax: 972-8-9258383 E-mail: