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Biol Psychiatry. 1989 Jan 15;25(2):141-52.

Noradrenergic function in generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and healthy subjects.

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Department of Psychiatry, Erasme Hospital, Free University of Brussels, Belgium.


Plasma norepinephrine (NE), free 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenethylene glycol (MHPG), and binding of tritiated yohimbine to platelet membranes were measured in 14 patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), who were matched for age and sex with 14 patients with unipolar major depressive disorder (MDD) and 14 normal subjects. Plasma NE and MHPG levels were increased and the number of alpha2-adrenoreceptors (Bmax) was decreased in GAD patients compared with MDD and normal subjects. No differences were found between MDD patients and normal subjects for plasma NE, MHPG, and alpha2-adrenoreceptor binding. Plasma NE and MHPG were significantly correlated in MDD patients and tended toward a significant positive correlation in GAD patients. Plasma MHPG and affinity of binding platelet alpha2-adrenoreceptors (Kd) were significantly correlated in normal subjects. Thus, noradrenergic activity seems to be increased in patients with GAD, but not in patients with MDD. In GAD patients, higher levels of catecholamines may lead to a down-regulation of presynaptic alpha2-adrenoreceptors.

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