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Serotonin Function in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder A Comparison of the Effects of Tryptophan and m-Chlorophenylpiperazine in Patients and Healthy Subjects

Dennis S. Charney, MD; Wayne K. Goodman, MD; Lawrence H. Price, MD; Scott W. Woods, MD; Steven A. Rasmussen, MD; George R. Heninger, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1988;45(2):177-185. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1988.01800260095012.
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• To evaluate the role of serotonin (5-HT) function In obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), behavioral and biochemical responses to the 5-HT receptor agonist m-chlorophenylpiperazine (MCPP) and the 5-HT precursor tryptophan were examined in healthy subjects and patients with OCD. Baseline prolactin levels and the prolactin rise following MCPP were significantly reduced in female patients compared with female healthy subjects. In contrast, the increase in prolactin level following tryptophan administration was not significantly different between male or female patients with OCD and the respective sex-matched healthy subjects. The prolactin responses to MCPP and tryptophan were both significantly higher in female patients and healthy subjects than in their male counterparts. The cortisol and growth hormone responses to MCPP and tryptophan were similar in the patients and healthy subjects and were not related to gender. The behavioral responses to MCPP or tryptophan were not consistently different between patients and healthy subjects, and neither MCPP nor tryptophan had effects on obsessive or compulsive symptoms. These results lend only partial support to the hypothesis that 5-HT dysfunction may be linked to the pathophysiology of OCD and point to the need for the evaluation of other neurotransmitter systems in future investigations of OCD.

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