Corticotropin-releasing hormone in
depression and post-traumatic stress disorder

Kasckow JW, Baker D, Geracioti TD.
Cincinnati VAMC,
Psychiatry Service,
3200 Vine Street,
45220, Cincinnati, OH, USA
jid8008690 2001 May; 22(5):845-51


Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) has been implicated in the regulation of a wide range of behaviors including arousal, motor function, feeding, and reproduction. Because depressed patients are often hypercortisolemic and intracerebroventricular administration of CRH to experimental animals produces a syndrome reminiscent of depression, dysregulation of this compound has been suggested to be involved in the pathogenesis of depressive and anxiety disorders. Studies of cerebrospinal fluid CRH levels and clinical neuroendocrine tests in patients with anxiety and affective disorders have supported this hypothesis. This review discusses these neuroendocrine findings in melancholic and atypical depression as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Overall, the data suggest that melancholic depression is characterized by hyperactive central CRH systems with overactivity of the pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. On the other hand, atypical depression is characterized by hypoactive central CRH systems and accompanying underactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Furthermore, the neuroendocrinology of PTSD appears to be unique, in that patients have hyperactive central CRH systems with underactivity of the pituitary-adrenal axis.
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