Enhanced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis responses to physostigmine in normal aging

E. R. Peskind, M. A. Raskind, D. Wingerson, M. Pascualy, L. J. Thal, D. J. Dobie, R. C. Veith, D. M. Dorsa, S. Murray, C. Sikkema, S. A. Galt, C. W. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of normal human aging on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis response to the centrally active cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine. This drug stimulates the HPA axis at a suprapituitary level by increasing central nervous system (CNS) cholinergic activity. Methods. Plasma ACTH, beta- endorphin (βE) and cortisol responses to a 10-minute infusion of physostigmine (.0125 mg/kg) were compared between groups of 10 normal older subjects (71 ± 2 years [mean ± SEM]) and 9 normal young subjects (27 ± 2 years). Plasma physostigmine concentrations were measured to assess the comparability of the pharmacologic stimulus between groups. Results. Endocrine responses were substantially greater in older subjects than young subjects for ACTH (p < .01), βE (p < .01) and cortisol (p < .01). Plasma physostigmine concentrations did not differ between older and young subjects. Conclusion. This study demonstrated increased HPA axis responsivity to a CNS cholinergic stimulus in normal human aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)M114-M120
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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