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Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Feb;154(2):224-30.

Inverse relationship of peripheral thyrotropin-stimulating hormone levels to brain activity in mood disorders.

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National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. 20892, USA.



The author's goal was to investigate relationships between peripheral thyroid hormone levels and cerebral blood flow (CBF) and cerebral glucose metabolism in affectively ill patients.


Medication-free inpatients with major depression or bipolar disorder were studied with oxygen-15 water and positron emission tomography (PET) to measure CBF (N = 19) or with [18F] fluorodeoxyglucose and PET to measure cerebral glucose metabolism (N = 29). Linear regression was used to correlate global CBF and cerebral glucose metabolism with serum thyrotropin-stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4), and free T4 concentrations. Statistical parametric mapping was used to correlate regional CBF and cerebral glucose metabolism with these thyroid indexes. Post hoc t tests were used to further explore the relationships between serum TSH and global CBF and cerebral glucose metabolism.


Serum TSH was inversely related to both global and regional CBF and cerebral glucose metabolism. These relationships persisted in the cerebral glucose metabolism analysis and, to a lesser extent, in the CBF analysis after severity of depression had been controlled for. In contrast, no significant relationships were observed between T3, T4, or free T4 and global or regional CBF and cerebral glucose metabolism.


These data suggest that peripheral TSH (putatively the best marker of thyroid status) is inversely related to global and regional CBF and cerebral glucose metabolism. These findings indicate relationships between thyroid and cerebral activity that could provide mechanistic hypotheses for thyroid contributions to primary and secondary mood disorders and the psychotropic effects of thyroid axis manipulations.

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