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J Psychiatr Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;38(2):123-8.

Combined DEX/CRH test among Japanese patients with major depression.

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  • 1Department of Mental Disorder Research, National Institute of Neuroscience, National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, 4-1-1, Ogawahigashi, Kodaira, 187-8502, Tokyo, Japan.


There is compelling evidence for an important role of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis abnormalities in the pathophysiology of major depressive disorder. Growing evidence has suggested that the combined dexamethasone (DEX)/CRH test is much more sensitive than the conventional DEX suppression test in order to detect HPA axis abnormalities. However, little data is currently available on DEX/CRH results for Asian populations, which prompted us to examine the sensitivity of the DEX/CRH test among Japanese subjects with major depression. The DEX/CRH test was administered in 20 inpatients with major depressive episode and 30 healthy controls. Significantly increased cortisol responses were observed for the patients, compared to the controls. There was a substantial difference in the distribution of non-suppressor, intermediate suppressor, and suppressor, which were defined in terms of cortisol response, was observed between the patients and controls (10, 60, and 30% in the patients vs. 0, 27, and 73% in the controls, P<0.01). Responses of ACTH showed a trend in the same direction. Within the depressed patients, individuals with a history of attempted suicide, in particular, tended to have enhanced responses to the DEX/CRH test, compared to those without such a history. Our results confirmed that the DEX/CRH test is a sensitive test to detect HPA axis abnormalities among Japanese patients with major depression. In addition, a possible relationship between suicidal acts and enhanced HPA axis abnormalities was suggested.

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