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Chapter 5.7 Adrenal steroids and episodic memory: relevance to mood disorders

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hamid Alhaj, Professor Hamish McAllister-WilliamsORCiD


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Mood disorders, depression, and bipolar disorder are characterized by abnormal adrenal steroid concentrations and neurocognitive impairments that may persist even after full recovery and hence may relate to fundamental underlying pathophysiologies of the illnesses. It has been suggested that the alterations in the functions of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in patients, leading to corticosteroid overproduction, damages brain structures, including the frontal cortex and the hippocampus, thus causing neurocognitive impairment. Specifically, episodic memory, memory for previously encountered events, has been shown to be affected in mood disorders. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, which are known to play an important role in episodic memory, are cortisol sensitive. Cortisol administration to healthy volunteers has been shown to impair episodic memory and to lead to qualitative changes in the activity of frontal brain regions. Recently, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and other anti-glucocorticoids have been shown to improve episodic memory in healthy subjects and may have beneficial effects in the treatment of neurocognitive impairment in patients with mood disorders. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Alhaj H, McAllister-Williams R

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Handbook of Behavioral Neuroscience

Year: 2008

Volume: 18

Pages: 585-595

ISSN (print): 1569-7339

ISSN (electronic):


DOI: 10.1016/S1569-7339(08)00232-4