• Keywords DHEA;
  • neurophysiology;
  • review

Dehydroepiandrosteone (DHEA) and its sulfate ester (DHEAS) are the major secretory products of the human adrenal glands and serve as precursors for both androgenic and estrogenic steroids. DHEA/S concentrations are particularly high in the brain, and DHEA/S and related steroids can be synthesized de novo in brain glial cells. Therefore, the term ‘neurosteroids’ has been coined for these compounds.

This review summarizes findings in neurosteroid physiology on a cellular and molecular level, and outlines current concepts of how these compounds modulate physiological functions of the brain. Today, despite promising preclinical and human data the present clinical studies provide only weak evidence, if any, in favour of a DHEA replacement therapy.