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Psychobiological Aspects of Somatoform Disorders: Contributions of Monoaminergic Transmitter Systems

Rief W.a,b · Pilger F.a · Ihle D.a · Verkerk R.d · Scharpe S.d · Maes M.d
aCenter for Behavioral Medicine, Klinik Roseneck, Prien am Chiemsee, and bDepartment of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy, University of Marburg, Marburg, Germany; cDepartment of Medical Biochemistry, University of Antwerp, Edegem, Belgium; dDepartment of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology, University Hospital of Maastricht, Maastricht, The Netherlands Neuropsychobiology 2004;49:24–29 (DOI:10.1159/000075335)


Objective: To evaluate the possible biological aspects of ‘unexplained physical symptoms’, this study examined serotonergic and noradrenergic monoamino acids in somatoform disorders and/or depression. Methods: Blood samples of 150 subjects from 4 groups (somatization syndrome; depression; depression and somatization; controls) were analyzed for amino acids contributing to the serotonergic and noradrenergic system and peripheral muscle energy balance (tryptophan, valine, leucine, isoleucine, phenylalanine and tyrosine). Results: Tryptophan, branched chain amino acids and other serotonergic amino acids were decreased in patients with somatoform symptoms, even when no depression was present. Conclusions: We conclude that serotonergic amino acids are biological correlates of multiple unexplained symptoms. Ways of action do not only involve brain mechanisms, but also energy metabolism in peripheral muscles.


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