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J Psychiatr Res. 1998 Jan-Feb;32(1):11-7.

The relationship between plasma MHPG and NE: employing regression models in estimating centrally derived MHPG and peripheral NE turnover rate in panic disorder.

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Section on Anxiety and Affective Disorders, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland, USA.


Studies investigating the role of the noradrenergic system in the pathophysiology of anxiety have focused on measuring plasma 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylethyleneglycol (MHPG) levels. Fewer studies have examined norepinephrine levels. Basal plasma norepinephrine and free MHPG levels were simultaneously measured in 33 normal controls and 20 panic disorder (PD) patients. Norepinephrine levels were similar in patients and controls, but MHPG levels were significantly lower in patients (13.34 +/- 3.22 vs 18.37 +/- 4.49 pmol ml-1, p < 0.0001). Norepinephrine correlated significantly with plasma MHPG levels in controls (r = 0.538, p < 0.0001) and patients (r = 0.645, p < 0.002). Patients had a trend toward a lower y-intercept than controls, suggesting a lower contribution by the CNS to MHPG pool plasma levels (9.18 vs 12.51, p < 0.08). Norepinephrine turnover rate was similar in patients and controls. We propose that the dysregulation in the noradrenergic system in PD may be akin to animal studies of acute-on-top-of-chronic stress paradigms, whereby chronic stress results in normal or decreased basal NE turnover and sensitized responses to recurrent stresses.

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