The Dexamethasone Suppression Test as a Measure of Hypothalamic-Pituitary Feedback Sensitivity and its Relationship to Behavioral ArousalKalin N.H. · Cohen R.M. · Kraemer G.W. · Risch S.C. · Shelton S. · Cohen M. · McKinney W.T. · Murphy D.L.
Clinical Neuropharmacology Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Md., and Wisconsin Primate Laboratory, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisc., USA
A nonhuman primate model was used to evaluate the value of the dexamethasone suppression test as an index of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responsiveness to arousal. In 8 rhesus monkeys plasma cortisol was suppressed by dexamethasone in a dose-dependent fashion at doses between 0.75 and 33 μg/kg. A replication study was performed 5 months later using a single dexamethasone dose (17 μg/kg) known to produce maximal plasma cortisol suppression. This yielded highly correlated results (r = 0.91, p < 0.005) suggesting that dexamethasone suppressibility may be a stable characteristic of individual animals. In 9 other animals whose arousal responses to a stressful procedure (nasogastric tube insertion) had been rated daily over a previous 3-month period, baseline plasma cortisol levels and the percent suppression of plasma cortisol by dexamethasone were evaluated. Baseline plasma cortisol levels did not significantly correlate with the degree of dexamethasone-suppression and the mean arousal ratings within animals. However, the postdexamethasone percent of baseline cortisol did correlate significantly (r = 0.75, p < 0.025) with individual mean arousal ratings. These preliminary results suggest that assessment of the sensitivity of an individual’s hypothalamic-pituitary glucocorticoid feedback system may be a better predictor than its baseline cortisol concentrations of its degree of behavioral arousal to stress.
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