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BACKGROUND: Recent formulations of the pathophysiology of major depression suggest that stress-induced cortisol secretion may lower brain serotonin (5-HT) function, thereby precipitating depressive symptomatology. This implies that people who develop depression after stressful life events may be particularly vulnerable to the effect of cortisol on brain 5-HT activity. We therefore assessed the effect of a single dose of hydrocortisone on 5-HT-mediated growth hormone (GH) release in healthy volunteers and euthymic subjects recovered from at least two episodes of major depression. METHODS: Eleven recovered depressed patients and 20 healthy controls received intravenous tryptophan (TRP) 10.5 h after placebo and hydrocortisone (50 mg orally) in a double-blind, cross-over design. Plasma GH levels were sampled for 90 min after TRP infusion. RESULTS: The GH response to TRP was significantly lower in the recovered depressed patients than controls after hydrocortisone. LIMITATIONS: The number of recovered depressed subjects studied was small and the effect of hydrocortisone on TRP-induced GH release was different to that observed in a previous study. CONCLUSIONS: These findings are consistent with other evidence suggesting abnormal regulation of 5-HT neurotransmission in people vulnerable to recurrent depression.


Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





249 - 255


Adult, Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Cross-Over Studies, Depressive Disorder, Female, Human Growth Hormone, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Male, Middle Aged, Neurotransmitter Agents, Placebos, Serotonin, Stress, Psychological