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October 1994

Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Dependent Variables in Mood Disorder Research

Author Affiliations

From the Clinical Psychobiology Branch (Dr Leibenluft and Ms Fiero) and the Section on Behavioral Endocrinology, Biological Psychiatry Branch (Dr Rubinow), the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md. Ms Fiero is currently affiliated with the Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51(10):761-781. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1994.03950100009002

The purpose of this article is to review the literature on the effects of the menstrual cycle on dependent variables in mood disorder research to inform investigators which physiological measures are likely to be significantly affected by menstrual cycle fluctuations and precisely how they might be affected. The following variables are discussed: prolactin; growth hormone; the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis (including thyrotropin, triiodothyronine, and thyroxine); the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (cortisol, corticotropin, and β-endorphin); melatonin; sleep; body temperature; and neurotransmitter activity (serotonergic and adrenergic systems). Body temperature and plasma and urinary norepinephrine vary predictably over the menstrual cycle. Prolactin and β-endorphin may have peaks in the periovulatory phase, whereas serotonin levels in platelet-poor plasma may reach a nadir at that time. Triiodothyronine, thyroxine, cortisol, and melatonin do not appear to vary systematically over the course of the menstrual cycle, whereas the data for growth hormone, thyrotropin, corticotropin, and sleep are inconclusive.