Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

Health Services Research & Development

Go to the ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

An exploratory pilot investigation of neurosteroids and self-reported pain in female Iraq/Afghanistan-era Veterans.

Naylor JC, Kilts JD, Strauss JL, Szabo ST, Dunn CE, Wagner HR, Hamer RM, Shampine LJ, Zanga JR, Marx CE, Department of Veterans Affairs Mid-Atlantic Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center Workgroup. An exploratory pilot investigation of neurosteroids and self-reported pain in female Iraq/Afghanistan-era Veterans. Journal of rehabilitation research and development. 2016 Aug 1; 53(4):499-510.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


Female Veterans are the most rapidly growing segment of new users of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and a significant proportion of female Veterans receiving treatment from VHA primary care providers report persistent pain symptoms. Currently, available data characterizing the neurobiological underpinnings of pain disorders are limited. Preclinical data suggest that neurosteroids may be involved in the modulation of pain symptoms, potentially via actions at gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) are neurosteroids that modulate inhibitory GABA receptors and excitatory NMDA receptors, producing complex neuronal effects. Emerging evidence from male Iraq/Afghanistan-era Veterans suggests that reductions in neurosteroid levels are associated with increased pain symptoms and that neurosteroids may be promising biomarker candidates. The current exploratory study thus examined associations between self-reported pain symptoms in 403 female Iraq/Afghanistan-era Veterans and serum DHEAS and DHEA levels. Serum DHEAS levels were inversely correlated with low back pain in female Veterans (Spearman r = -0.103; p = 0.04). Nonparametric analyses indicate that female Veterans reporting moderate/extreme low back pain demonstrated significantly lower DHEAS levels than those reporting no/little low back pain (Z = 2.60; p = 0.009). These preliminary findings support a role for DHEAS in pain physiology of low back pain and the rationale for neurosteroid therapeutics in pain analgesia.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.