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Associations between dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels, pituitary volume, and social anxiety in children

Murray, Cynthia R., Simmons, Julian G., Allen, Nicholas B., Byrne, Michelle L., Mundy, Lisa K., Seal, Marc L., Patton, George C., Olsson, Craig A. and Whittle, Sarah 2016, Associations between dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels, pituitary volume, and social anxiety in children, Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 64, pp. 31-39, doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.11.004.

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Title Associations between dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) levels, pituitary volume, and social anxiety in children
Author(s) Murray, Cynthia R.
Simmons, Julian G.
Allen, Nicholas B.
Byrne, Michelle L.
Mundy, Lisa K.
Seal, Marc L.
Patton, George C.
Olsson, Craig A.ORCID iD for Olsson, Craig A.
Whittle, Sarah
Journal name Psychoneuroendocrinology
Volume number 64
Start page 31
End page 39
Total pages 9
Publisher Elsevier
Place of publication Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Publication date 2016-02
ISSN 1873-3360
Keyword(s) Adrenarche
Pituitary gland
Social anxiety
HPA axis
Summary  Early timing of adrenarche, associated with relatively high levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and its sulphate (DHEA-S) in children, has been linked with mental health problems, particularly anxiety. However, little is known about possible neurobiological mechanisms underlying this association. The pituitary gland is a key component of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, the activation of which triggers the onset of adrenarche. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which pituitary gland volume mediated the relationship between levels of DHEA/DHEA-S relative to age (i.e., adrenarcheal timing) and symptoms of anxiety in 95 children (50 female, M age 9.50 years, SD 0.34 years). Relatively high DHEA and DHEA-S (DHEA/S) levels were found to be associated with larger pituitary gland volumes. There was no significant direct effect of relative DHEA/S levels on overall symptoms of anxiety. However, results supported an indirect link between relatively high DHEA/S levels and symptoms of social anxiety, mediated by pituitary gland volume. No sex differences were observed for any relationship. Our findings suggest that neurobiological mechanisms may be partly responsible for the link between relatively early adrenarche and anxiety symptoms in children. One possible mechanism for this finding is that an enlarged pituitary gland in children experiencing relatively advanced adrenarche might be associated with hyper-activity/reactivity of the HPA axis. Further research is needed to understand the role of stress in the link between adrenarcheal timing and HPA-axis function, especially in relation to the development of anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents.
Language eng
DOI 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.11.004
Field of Research 11 Medical And Health Sciences
17 Psychology And Cognitive Sciences
170102 Developmental Psychology and Ageing
Socio Economic Objective 970117 Expanding Knowledge in Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, Elsevier
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Document type: Journal Article
Collections: School of Psychology
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