Serotonin hypothesis of winter depression: Behavioral and neuroendocrine effects of the 5-HT(1A) receptor partial agonist ipsapirone in patients with seasonal affective disorder and healthy control subjects

Paul J. Schwartz, Erick H. Turner, Diego Garcia-Borreguero, Jan Sedway, Rina G. Vetticad, Thomas A. Wehr, Dennis L. Murphy, Norman E. Rosenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations

Abstract

Winter depressions in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are associated with central serotonergic (5-HT) dysfunction. SAD patients demonstrate rather specific, state-dependent, abnormal increases in 'activation-euphoria' ratings following intravenous infusion of the 5-HT receptor agonist meta- chlorophenylpiperazine (m-CPP). Several studies are also consistent with abnormal serotonergic regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in SAD. Here, we investigated the effects of the 5-HT(1A) receptor partial agonist ipsapirone, which produces behavioral effects and HPA-axis activation, to further characterize the 5-HT receptor subtype-specificity of these disturbances in SAD. Eighteen SAD patients and 18 control subjects completed two drug challenges (ipsapirone 0.3 mg/kg and placebo) separated by 3-5 days in randomized order. We measured behavioral responses with the NIMH self-rating scale, and plasma ACTH, cortisol, and prolactin concentrations. Compared with placebo, ipsapirone was associated with significant increases in self-rated 'functional deficit' and 'altered self-reality', and in each of the hormones. There were no differences between groups on any measures. The level of depression in SAD patients was inversely correlated with their ipsapirone-induced cortisol responses. There were significant drug x order effects on baseline 'anxiety' scores, ACTH and cortisol concentrations, such that subjects were significantly more stressed (higher 'anxiety', ACTH and cortisol) prior to their first challenge compared with their second. In conclusion, post-synaptic 5-HT(1A) receptors appear to function normally in SAD. The previously observed m-CPP-induced behavioral abnormality may be mediated by either 5-HT(2C) or 5-HT7 receptors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-28
Number of pages20
JournalPsychiatry Research
Volume86
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 19 1999

Keywords

  • 5-HT(1A) receptors
  • ACTH
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone
  • Cortisol
  • Ipsapirone
  • Prolactin
  • Seasonal affective disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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