Scientists find hormone activity explains adolescent mood swings

March 11, 2007

The "raging hormones" of puberty are known to produce mood swings and stress for most teenagers, making it difficult to cope with this period of life. Until now, the specific causes of pubertal anxiety have not been identified, making it harder to understand and treat adolescent angst.

In the current edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience, researchers led by Sheryl S. Smith, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, report findings demonstrating that a hormone normally released in response to stress, THP, actually reverses its effect at puberty, when it increases anxiety.

This hormone normally acts like a tranquilizer, acting at sites in the brain that "calm" brain activity. In the adult, this stress hormone helps the individual adapt to stress, with a calming effect produced half an hour after the event.

Specifically, the GABA-A receptor is the target for steroids, such as THP (or allopregnanolone), which reduce anxiety. GABA-A receptors calm activity in the brain. As such, they are the targets for most sedative, tranquilizing drugs.

One sub-type, GABA-A receptors containing the delta subunit, such as alpha4-beta2-delta, has the highest sensitivity to steroids. In order to study its role in puberty, the researchers used a mouse model that reliably predicts the human condition. In this rodent model, the alpha4-beta2-delta receptor normally has very low expression, but increases dramatically at the onset of puberty in the part of the brain that regulates emotion. Paradoxically, THP reduced the inhibition produced by these alpha4-beta2-delta GABA-A receptors, increasing brain activity to produce a state of increased anxiety. Stress also increased anxiety at puberty, due to the paradoxical effects of this hormone that is released by stress.

Dr. Smith and colleagues identified the site on human recombinant alpha4-beta2-delta GABA-A receptors that produced the anxiety response, and were able to mutate the site to prevent the novel effect of the stress hormone. In contrast, neither the receptor nor the necessary conditions exist for this anxiety-producing effect of the stress hormone before puberty, because the expression of the receptor is dependent upon hormonal transitions, such as those that occur at puberty. This new finding of a change in the effect of a stress hormone sheds new light on the "mood swings" of puberty.

Source: SUNY Downstate Medical Center

Explore further: No, crying doesn't release toxins, though it might make you feel better... if that's what you believe

Related Stories

No, crying doesn't release toxins, though it might make you feel better... if that's what you believe

November 26, 2018
Crying is a big part of being a kid. As you grow older, you may find you're crying less than during childhood and adolescence.

Managing congenital adrenal hyperplasia requires shared decisions among patients, families, and healthcare professionals

September 27, 2018
The Endocrine Society today issued a Clinical Practice Guideline that offers best practices for healthcare providers on how to promptly diagnose, treat, and manage patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), an inherited ...

Abuse accelerates puberty in children

March 17, 2017
While it has long been known that maltreatment can affect a child's psychological development, new Penn State research indicates that the stress of abuse can impact the physical growth and maturation of adolescents as well.

Puberty hormones trigger changes in youthful learning

June 1, 2017
A University of California, Berkeley, study of mice reveals, for the first time, how puberty hormones might impede some aspects of flexible youthful learning.

Medical intervention in transgender adolescents appears to be safe and effective

June 17, 2013
Hormone treatment to halt puberty in adolescents with gender identity disorder does not cause lasting harm to their bones, a new study finds. The results were presented today at The Endocrine Society's 95th Annual Meeting ...

Trauma and stress in teen years increases risk of depression during menopause, study shows

March 29, 2017
Although depression is common during a woman's transition to menopause, understanding who is at-risk of experiencing major depressive disorder (MDD) during this period of hormonal fluctuation were previously unknown. Now, ...

Recommended for you

Exercise-induced hormone irisin triggers bone remodeling in mice

December 13, 2018
Exercise has been touted to build bone mass, but exactly how it actually accomplishes this is a matter of debate. Now, researchers show that an exercise-induced hormone activates cells that are critical for bone remodeling ...

Law professor suggests a way to validate and integrate deep learning medical systems

December 13, 2018
University of Michigan professor W. Nicholson Price, who also has affiliations with Harvard Law School and the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law, suggests in a Focus piece published in Science Translational Medicine, ...

Faster test for Ebola shows promising results in field trials

December 13, 2018
A team of researchers with members from the U.S., Senegal and Guinea, in cooperation with Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), has developed a faster test for the Ebola virus than those currently in use. In their paper published ...

Pain: Perception and motor impulses arise in brain independently of one another

December 13, 2018
Pain is a negative sensation that we want to get rid of as soon as possible. In order to protect our bodies, we react by withdrawing the hand from heat, for example. This action is usually understood as the consequence of ...

Drug targets for Ebola, Dengue, and Zika viruses found in lab study

December 13, 2018
No drugs are currently available to treat Ebola, Dengue, or Zika viruses, which infect millions of people every year and result in severe illness, birth defects, and even death. New research from the Gladstone Institutes ...

Researchers give new insight to muscular dystrophy patients

December 13, 2018
New research by University of Minnesota scientists has revealed the three-dimensional structure of the DUX4 protein, which is responsible for the disease, facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD). Unlike the majority ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.