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Psychiatry Res. 2013 Jun 30;208(1):41-6. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2013.03.012. Epub 2013 Apr 12.

Evening salivary alpha-amylase, major depressive disorder, and antidepressant use in the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA).

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Department of Psychiatry, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Salivary alpha-amylase (sAA) may be a suitable index for sympathetic activity and dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. The relationship between antidepressants and depression with sAA levels was studied, since antidepressants were previously shown to have a profound impact on heart rate variability as an ANS indicator. Data are from 1692 participants of the Netherlands Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA) who were recruited from the community, general practice, and specialized mental health care. Differences in evening sAA levels were examined between patient groups (i.e., 752 current major depressive disorder [MDD], 611 remitted MDD, and 329 healthy controls) and between 46 tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) users, 307 selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) users, 97 users of another antidepressant, and 1242 non-users. Each participant sampled twice at 22.00h and 23.00h. In multivariable analysis, there was a trend over the three groups with increasing sAA levels from controls to remitted MDD to current MDD that approached significance. Furthermore, in comparison to non-users of antidepressants, TCA rather than SSRI users showed higher sAA levels, that persisted after multivariable adjustment. The present study shows that higher evening sAA levels in depressed patients, indicative of an increased sympathetic activity, may be induced by TCAs.

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