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Biol Psychiatry. 1997 Oct 15;42(8):669-79.

The corticotropin-releasing hormone challenge in depressed abused, depressed nonabused, and normal control children.

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Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, University of Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.


Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis disturbances in depressed children with a history of abuse were examined. Thirteen depressed abused, 13 depressed nonabused, and 13 normal control children were given 1.0 microgram/kg of human corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) intravenously. Blood samples for corticotropin (ACTH) and cortisol were obtained at nine intervals. When compared to depressed nonabused and normal control children, depressed abused children had significantly greater peak, total, and net ACTH secretion post-CRH. Increased ACTH secretion was only observed in depressed abused children experiencing ongoing chronic adversity (marital violence, emotional abuse, poverty, lack of supports). The pattern of findings of the depressed abused children experiencing ongoing adversity parallels the pattern of HPA axis dysregulation reported in animal studies of chronic stress. They add to a growing body of literature suggesting measures of past trauma and current adversity are important sources of variability in psychobiological correlates of major depression.

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