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Biol Psychiatry. 1991 Feb 1;29(3):253-64.

Hypothalamic--pituitary--adrenal axis and monoamine transmitter activity in depression: a pilot study of central and peripheral effects of electroconvulsive therapy.

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  • 1Section on Clinical Pharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892.


Central and peripheral measures of hypothalamic--pituitary--adrenal (HPA) axis and monoamine neurotransmitter activity were assessed in 8 depressed patients during a medication-free period and again after completion of a course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Seven patients responded fully to ECT. At baseline there was corresponding activation of the HPA and noradrenergic systems, with apparent elevation in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) concentrations of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in some patients. Neither CRH nor adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) in CSF changed significantly after ECT, with a mean 10% decline in CSF CRH. Urinary free cortisol (UFC) excretion was high both before and after treatment. Although peripheral noradrenergic hyperreactivity at baseline appeared to normalize with ECT, CSF concentrations of the principal norepinephrine metabolite, 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenyl-glycol (MHPG) were unaffected and remained correlated with CSF CRH. In contrast, there were increases in the CSF levels of the main metabolite of serotonin in half the patients.

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