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Am J Physiol. 1998 Oct;275(4 Pt 2):R1247-55.

Heterogeneous neurochemical responses to different stressors: a test of Selye's doctrine of nonspecificity.

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  • 1Clinical Neuroscience Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


Selye defined stress as the nonspecific response of the body to any demand. Stressors elicit both pituitary-adrenocortical and sympathoadrenomedullary responses. One can test Selye's concept by comparing magnitudes of responses at different stress intensities and assuming that the magnitudes vary with stress intensity, with the prediction that, at different stress intensities, ratios of increments neuroendocrine responses should be the same. We measured arterial plasma ACTH, norepinephrine, and epinephrine in conscious rats after hemorrhage, intravenous insulin, subctaneous formaldehyde solution, cold, or immobilization. Relative to ACTH increments, cold evoked large norepinephrine responses, insulin large epinephrine responses, and hemorrhage small norepinephrine and epinephrine responses, whereas immobilization elicited large increases in levels of all three compounds. The ACTH response to 25% hemorrhage exceeded five times that to 10%, and the epinephrine response to 25% hemorrhage was two times that to 10%. The ACTH response to 4% formaldehyde solution was two times that to 1%, and the epinephrine response to 4% formaldehyde solution exceeded four times that to 1%. These results are inconsistent with Selye's doctrine of nonspecificity and the existence of a unitary "stress syndrome," and they are more consistent with the concept that each stressor has its own central neurochemical and peripheral neuroendocrine "signature."

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