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December 1985

Exaggerated Orthostatic Responsivity of Plasma Norepinephrine in Depression

Author Affiliations

From the Section on Clinical Psychopharmacology, Laboratory of Clinical Science, National Institute of Mental Health (Drs Rudorfer, Ross, Sherer, and Potter), and the Laboratory of Clinical Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Dr Linnoila), Bethesda, Md. Dr Ross is now with the Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania/Veterans Administration Medical Center, Philadelphia.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1985;42(12):1186-1192. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1985.01790350060011

• An orthostatic challenge paradigm was used to assess noradrenergic regulation in depressive disorders. Plasma norepinephrine (NE) concentrations and concurrent blood pressure and pulse were measured at rest and after five minutes of standing in groups of bipolar (N=22) and unipolar (N=19) depressives and in 12 partially age-matched healthy female volunteers. Supine plasma NE levels were significantly lower in bipolar patients than in either unipolar depressives or normal volunteers. Following the orthostatic challenge, the fractional NE increase in both patient groups—particularly the bipolar group—was greatly exaggerated, exceeding that in the controls by approximately 100%. Nonetheless, the postural cardiovascular changes—elevations of diastolic blood pressure and heart rate—failed to distinguish the three subject groups. Noradrenergic dysregulation in depression thus is characterized by inefficient hyperreactivity to physiologic stress.