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postnatal handling/cort=in humans, too?

James Howard jmhoward at sprynet.com
Sat May 31 08:38:02 EST 1997

On 30 May 1997 05:05:41 GMT, ljmiller at iquest.net (Laura J Miller) wrote:
There seems to be conclusive evidence in rats that
>postnatal handling and maternal care affect the HPA and 
>have long-lasting effects of reducing reactivity to mild 
>stressors and a "reduction in fearfulness", as at least one paper
>puts it.
>>I was just wondering if this was being looked at in
>any way in humans?  It seems logical that maternal handling
>would be decreased in situations where the mother is 
>depressed, for example.  Do these children express heightened

James Howard responds:
The following is a post I sent to another newsgroup 9/04/96.  I think it
may give you some insights, and it is entirely new.  When you read this
about DHEA and infants, you should also know that DHEA is reduced in women
following childbirth.

I think the "placebo effect" results from the release of DHEA.  When I
first started this, it was in the context of some people saying they
immediately felt effects of DHEA from "DHEA gum."  I wish I had not done
that; I have confused some people.  Let me explain again, without any
connection to taking DHEA.

When an infant in a pediatric ward is labeled "failure to thrive," it
usually exhibits physical and "mental" attributes of lack of growth.  It is
fairly common knowledge that these infants do much better when simply held
and given affection.  This is real, and some D. of Pediatrics encourage
women to come hold these infants.  I think this initially occurs without
"expectations" from the infant.  However, I think the effect soon occurs
with expectations.  That is, positive, physical contact triggers DHEA
release, and brain function (anticipation) triggers DHEA release.  

My work suggests the "stress" hormone, cortisol, evolved as a counter
measure to DHEA in "fight or flight" confrontations.  (If one confronts too
powerful an adversary, then an increased ratio of cortisol to DHEA will
reduce the urge to fight.  The one who flees gets a second chance.)  It is
known that stress of many kinds triggers the release of cortisol.  What I
am saying is that many phenomena that are positive trigger the release of
DHEA.  For those of you who are older, you may remember the feelings that
often came during youth, such as the "rush" of seeing a significant person
of affection, going to the amusement park, the zoo, etc.  I think these
were due to releases of DHEA.  Contrast these with seeing the bully, for
some going to the dentist, etc.  I think these were due to cortisol.

The stress release of cortisol is real; I think the release of DHEA in
positive situations, including the hope triggered by a placebo, is real.

James Howard

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