The combined dexamethasone/CRH test (DEX/CRH test) is reported to produce augmented ACTH and cortisol responses in various psychiatric disorders as well as in some non-psychiatric conditions. To examine whether stress affects the outcome of DEX/CRH test, two stress groups in a repeated measures design were compared to an age-matched control group with regard to the psychological, autonomic and neuroendocrine responses after the combined dexamethasone and CRH challenge. Cold pressor (4°C, total 10 min) produced stronger subjective distress than mental arithmetic (15 min). Cold exposure, but not the mental test, elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure, whereas the mental test increased pulse rate and skin conductance level more markedly than cold exposure. Neither stressor produced a significantly enhanced response of ACTH and cortisol in DEX/CRH test, and there was no correlation between psychological and neuroendocrine responses. These findings suggest that different stressors induce different patterns of sympathetic activation and that acute stress is unlikely to affect the results of DEX/CRH test.
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