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Salivary Bioscience Bulletin

SBB – Salivary Alpha-Amylase and Stress

Drop Date: May 2009

In This Drop: What Will You Discover Today?

In recent years many researchers have accepted saliva testing as a convenient, less-invasive way to measure analytes such as the steroid hormones that were traditionally measured in blood. As the exploration of saliva continues, however, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the diagnostic and research uses of saliva extend far beyond simply serving as a convenient substitute for blood. In particular, a great deal of attention is being given to the numerous proteins and peptides synthesized locally in the salivary glands and to the complex roles they play in the body. One such protein is the salivary enzyme alpha-amylase. Best known as the enzyme that begins the process of degrading starch molecules in our food, it is now becoming clear that alpha-amylase plays an additional role in the maintenance of oral health. And, because the secretion of alpha-amylase from the salivary glands is directly controlled by nervous signals, it appears that it can also serve as a valuable indicator of activity in the sympathetic nervous system. In this issue of The Spit Report we focus on current research involving salivary alpha-amylase, with the hope that it will draw attention to the importance of this novel salivary biomarker.

Technical Advice

The Importance of Mouth Location during Saliva Collection.

Concentrations of some salivary analytes vary depending on the location in the mouth.

*Salimetrics provides this information for research use only (RUO). Information is not provided to promote off-label use of medical devices. Consult full text of article.

This Just In…

Spit Camps
The Spit Camp training sessions hosted by Salimetrics are designed to provide behavioral and social scientists with a basic introduction to salivary assays. These events have proven to be very popular, and we are offering an extended series of Spit Camps in various locations in North America and Europe during the remainder of 2009. Dr. Douglas Granger will be conducting one-day sessions at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Budapest on June 4th and at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, in the UK on June 8th. A full two-day workshop will then follow at our facilities in State College, Pennsylvania on June 25th and 26th. Additional sessions in State College are scheduled for the fall. The August Spit Camp is already full, but we are accepting reservations for October and December.

DNA Testing
As part of our plan to expand the range of products and services offered to researchers, Salimetrics is pleased to announce that we are currently working on the addition of a DNA testing service. This service will be designed to help customers investigate selected genetic polymorphisms related to the hormone and biomarker assays that we already offer. Watch for announcements on our website, and be sure to read the summer issue of The Salivary Bioscience Bulletin, which will feature further information about the integration of DNA testing into biobehavioral research.


Salivary alpha-amylase as a non-invasive biomarker for the sympathetic nervous system: Current state of research.
Nater, U.M., Rohleder, N. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34 (2009): 486-96.
Highlight: A review article presenting evidence that sAA is a valid indicator of sympathetic nervous system activity.

Determinants of salivary alpha-amylase in humans and methodological considerations.
Rohleder, N., Nater, U.M. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34 (2009): 469-485.
Highlight: A review article discussing various factors that can affect measurement of sAA activity.

Developmental differences in infant salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol responses to stress.
Davis, E.P., Granger, D.A. Psychoneuroendocrinology (In press, 2009) (DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.02.001)
Highlight: Basal levels and response to stress differ for cortisol and salivary alpha-amylase in infants.

Salivary alpha-amylase and cortisol responses to different stress tasks: Impact of sex.
van Stegern, A.H., Wolf, O.T., Kindt, M. International Journal of Psychophysiology 69 (2008): 33-40.
Highlight: Cortisol and sAA respond differently to different types of stress, and levels of the two biomarkers are also affected by sex.

Salivary alpha-amylase as a longitudinal predictor of children’s externalizing symptoms: Respiratory sinus arrhythmia as a moderator of effects.
Keller, P.S., El-Sheikh, M. Psychoneuroendocrinology (In press, 2009) (DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.12.016)
Highlight: The parasympathetic nervous system may play an important role in the moderation of the link between the sympathetic nervous system and externalizing behaviors in children.

True or false? Memory is differentially affected by stress-induced cortisol elevations and sympathetic activity at consolidation and retrieval.
Smeets, R., Otgaar, H., Candel, I., & Wolf, O.T. Psychoneuroendocrinology 33 (2008): 1378-86.
Highlight: Stress-induced increases in cortisol levels and sympathetic nervous activity during the consolidation phase are related to memory enhancement, but increases during the retrieval phase are related to memory impairment.

The clinical efficacy of reflexology in nursing home residents with dementia.
Hodgson, N.A. Andersen, S. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 14 (2008): 269-75.
Highlight: Significant reductions in pain and sAA levels followed reflexology treatments in elderly participants.

*Note: Salimetrics provides this information for research use only (RUO). Information is not provided to promote off-label use of medical devices. Please consult the full-text article.

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