Original Investigation

Psychopharmacology

, 205:151

First online:

Effect of aspirin on hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal function and on neuropsychological performance in healthy adults: a pilot study

  • Stuart WatsonAffiliated withInstitute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle University Email author 
  • , Kate HortonAffiliated withInstitute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle University
  • , Samantha BulmerAffiliated withInstitute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle University
  • , Jane CarlileAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, NTW NHS Trust
  • , Ciaran CorcoranAffiliated withInstitute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle University
  • , Peter GallagherAffiliated withInstitute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle University
  • , I. Nicol FerrierAffiliated withInstitute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle University

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Abstract

Rationale

Hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis dysregulation predicts poor clinical and biochemical response to antidepressants. Antiglucocorticoids have therapeutic benefits but most have a troublesome adverse event profile. Aspects of neuropsychological performance, notably working memory, are susceptible to corticosteroid modulation and are impaired in depression. Aspirin has been shown to attenuate the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol response to physiological challenge suggesting its potential to act as an augmenting agent in depression.

Objectives

To examine the effect of sub-acute (300 mg daily for 7 days) aspirin pre-treatment on the cortisol awakening response and the effect of acute (600 mg) and sub-acute aspirin on the neuroendocrine and neuropsychological response to the arginine vasopressin analogue, desmopressin.

Results

We demonstrated that aspirin pre-treatment did not attenuate the cortisol or ACTH response to desmopressin but, as hypothesised, significantly reduced the cortisol awakening response and improved working memory.

Conclusions

Further studies to examine the impact of aspirin on neuropsychological performance and HPA axis function are warranted.

Keywords

Cortisol ACTH Adrenocorticotropic hormone Arginine vasopressin Neuropsychological Digit span