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Can J Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;48(7):462-6.

The cortisol awakening response in bipolar illness: a pilot study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario. deshauer1@sympatico.ca

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

A growing body of data suggests that a significantly enhanced salivary cortisol response to waking may indicate an enduring tendency to abnormal cortisol regulation. Our objective was to apply the response test to a population already known to have long-term hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis dysregulation. We hypothesized that the free cortisol response to waking, believed to be genetically influenced, would be elevated in a significant percentage of cases, regardless of the afternoon Dexamethasone Suppression Test (DST) value.

METHOD:

Using the free cortisol response to waking and the short daytime profile, we tested 18 clinically stable, lithium-responsive subjects from our long-term naturalistic follow-up of monthly DSTs. These tests include salivary testing every 15 minutes during the first hour of waking, followed by samples taken at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM.

RESULTS:

While clinically stable on lithium prophylaxis, patients with bipolar disorder (BD) showed a significantly enhanced salivary cortisol response to waking, compared with control subjects (P < 0.03). Cortisol levels 30 minutes after waking significantly exceeded those in the large normative data provided in the literature (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS:

Our observations support the hypothesis that the free cortisol response to waking can reflect relatively enduring HPA dysregulation, even when lithium-responsive BD patients are clinically well and their DSTs are normal. Because the test is easy to administer, the free cortisol response to waking may hold promise as a marker in studies of high-risk families predisposed to, or at risk for, mood disorders.

PMID:
12971016
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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