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Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Dec 1;56(11):819-24.

Cytokines and psychopathology: lessons from interferon-alpha.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


Interferon-alpha is a potent inducer of the cytokine network and is notorious for causing behavioral alterations. Studies on interferon-alpha-treated patients reveal at least two distinct syndromes: 1) a mood/cognitive syndrome that appears late during interferon-alpha therapy is responsive to antidepressants and is associated with activation of neuroendocrine pathways and altered serotonin metabolism; and 2) a neurovegetative syndrome characterized by psychomotor slowing, and fatigue that appears early during interferon-alpha treatment is antidepressant nonresponsive and may be mediated by alterations in basal ganglia dopamine metabolism. Findings from interferon-alpha may provide important clues regarding the pathophysiology and treatment of cytokine-induced behavioral changes in medically ill patients, while also potentially modeling the development of neuropsychiatric symptoms in patients without medical disorders.

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