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Normalization of Blunted Lymphocyte β-Adrenergic Responsivity in Melancholic Inpatients by a Course of Electroconvulsive Therapy

J. John Mann, MD; John C. Mahler, MD; Philip J. Wilner, MD; James P. Halper, MD; Richard P. Brown, MD; Katherine S. Johnson, RN; James H. Kocsis, MD; Jaw-Sy Chen, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1990;47(5):461-464. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1990.01810170061009.
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• Electroconvulsive therapy has been reported to desensitize brain β-adrenergic receptors in rodents, but this effect has not been studied in man. We examined the effect of a course of electroconvulsive therapy on lymphocyte β-adrenergic responsivity in 19 inpatients with melancholia. Before treatment, β adrenergic cyclic adenosine monophosphate response to isoproterenol was significantly blunted in the patients compared with controls. Following a course of electroconvulsive therapy, β-adrenergic responsivity increased such that patients no longer differed from controls. Thus, blunted lymphocyte β-adrenergic responsivity is a state-dependent effect of melancholia that can be corrected by a therapeutic course of electroconvulsive therapy. The effect of electroconvulsive therapy on this β-adrenergic system is in the opposite direction to that reported for rodent forebrain, where electroconvulsive therapy causes desensitization, and may reflect differences between peripheral and central effects, species differences, or disease effects.

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