We're unable to sign you in at this time. Please try again in a few minutes.
We were able to sign you in, but your subscription(s) could not be found. Please try again in a few minutes.
There may be a problem with your account. Please contact the AMA Service Center to resolve this issue.
Contact the AMA Service Center:
Telephone: 1 (800) 262-2350 or 1 (312) 670-7827  *   Email: subscriptions@jamanetwork.com
Error Message ......
Article |

Sympathetic Nervous System Activity in Major Depression Basal and Desipramine-Induced Alterations in Plasma Norepinephrine Kinetics

Richard C. Veith, MD; Nancy Lewis, RN; Oscar A. Linares, MD; Robert F. Barnes, MD; Murray A. Raskind, MD; Enrique C. Villacres, MD; M. Michele Murburg, MD; E. Alexandra Ashleigh, MD; Sonia Castillo, PhD; Elaine R. Peskind, MD; Marcella Pascualy, MD; Jeffrey B. Halter, MD
Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1994;51(5):411-422. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1994.03950050071008.
Text Size: A A A
Published online


Background:  To determine whether elevations of plasma norepinephrine (NE) in major depression represent increased sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity and to assess the effects of desipramine hydrochloride on sympathetic function.

Methods:  SNS activity was assessed in depressed patients and controls by an isotope-dilution, plasma NE Kinetic technique using mathematical modeling and compartmental analysis. This approach provided estimates of the rate of NE appearance into an extravascular compartment, which is the site of endogenous NE release from SNS nerves, the corresponding rate of NE appearance into plasma, and the rate of NE clearance from plasma.

Results:  Norepinephrine appearance into the extravascular and vascular compartments was significantly elevated in 17 depressed patients compared with that in 36 controls. The rate of NE clearance from plasma was similar in both groups. This is compatible with increased SNS activity in major depression. Desipramine, given for 2 days, significantly reduced the concentration of NE in plasma of patients and controls by markedly suppressing the rates of extravascular and vascular NE appearance, compatible with a short-term reduction in SNS activity. Desipramine prolonged the rate of NE clearance from plasma, consistent with a blockade of NE re-uptake into SNS nerve terminals. The initial suppression of SNS activity by desipramine was reversed by long-term (28 days) treatment of patients, with extravascular and vascular NE appearance rates returning to approximately basal levels. An associated rise in plasma NE concentrations compared with the baseline was attributable to a progressive reduction in plasma NE clearance.

Conclusion:  Sympathetic nervous system activity is elevated in major depression and is suppressed by short-term desipramine administration. The demonstration of SNS reactivation occurring with prolonged desipramine treatment is compatible with the theory that long-term treatment desensitizes CNS α2-adrenergic receptors and emphasizes the value of examining the temporal course of responses to pharmacological challenges of neuroendocrine systems. Previously reported elevations of plasma NE during prolonged administration of tricyclic antidepressants are probably the result of a reduction in plasma NE clearance, not an increase in SNS activity.


Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?





Also Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
Please click the checkbox indicating that you have read the full article in order to submit your answers.
Your answers have been saved for later.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

0 Citations

Sign in

Purchase Options

• Buy this article
• Subscribe to the journal
• Rent this article ?

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.