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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2006 Sep;187(4):498-510. Epub 2006 Jun 27.

Comparison of pramipexole and amisulpride on alertness, autonomic and endocrine functions in healthy volunteers.

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  • 1Psychopharmacology Section, Division of Psychiatry, University of Nottingham Medical School (Room B109), Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham, UK.



In a previous study in healthy volunteers, the anti-Parkinsonian drug pramipexole caused sedation and pupil dilatation, consistent with the stimulation of inhibitory D(2)/D(3) autoreceptors on the ventral tegmental area dopaminergic neurones. The sedation may be related to the removal of the dopaminergic excitation of the locus coeruleus (via the meso-coerulear pathway), whereas the pupil dilatation may be due to the removal of the dopaminergic excitation of the Edinger-Westphal nucleus (via a putative meso-pupillomotor pathway).


We investigated the hypothesis that amisulpride, a D(2)/D(3) receptor antagonist, would have effects opposite to those of pramipexole on alertness, pupillary and endocrine functions.


Pramipexole (0.5 mg), amisulpride (50 mg), and their combination were administered to 16 healthy males in a balanced, cross-over, double-blind design. Tests included measures of alertness (Pupillographic Sleepiness Test, critical flicker fusion frequency, visual analogue scales), pupillary functions (resting pupil diameter, light and darkness reflex responses), non-pupillary autonomic functions (heart rate, blood pressure, salivation, core temperature), and endocrine functions [blood concentrations of prolactin, growth hormone (GH) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)]. Data were analysed by ANOVA.


Pramipexole reduced alertness and pupillary light reflex response amplitude, tended to reduce core temperature, reduced prolactin levels and increased GH levels. Amisulpride reduced pupil diameter, increased the amplitude of the light reflex response and prolactin and TSH levels.


The opposite effects of pramipexole and amisulpride on alertness, pupillary function and pituitary hormone levels are consistent with their interactions with inhibitory D(2)/D(3) receptors on VTA neurones and in the tuberoinfundibular system.

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