, Volume 231, Issue 2, pp 409–417 | Cite as

Neural correlates of free T3 alteration after catecholamine depletion in subjects with remitted major depressive disorder and in controls

  • Philipp Homan
  • Wayne C. Drevets
  • Gregor Hasler
Original Investigation



Thyroid hormones and their interactions with catecholamines play a potentially important role in alterations of mood and cognition.


This study aimed to examine the neurobiological effects of catecholamine depletion on thyroid hormones by measuring endocrine and cerebral metabolic function in unmedicated subjects with remitted major depressive disorder (RMDD) and in healthy controls.


This was a randomized, placebo-controlled, and double-blind crossover trial that included 15 unmedicated RMDD subjects and 13 healthy control subjects. The participants underwent two 3-day-long sessions at 1-week intervals; each participant was randomly administered oral α-methyl-para-tyrosine in one session (catecholamine depletion) and an identical capsule containing hydrous lactose (sham depletion) in the other session prior to a [18F]-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography scan.


Serum concentrations of free T3 (FT3), free T4 (FT4), and TSH were obtained and assessed with respect to their relationship to regional cerebral glucose metabolism. Both serum FT3 (P = 0.002) and FT4 (P = 0.0009) levels were less suppressed after catecholamine depletion compared with placebo treatment in the entire study sample. There was a positive association between both FT3 (P = 0.0005) and FT4 (P = 0.002) and depressive symptoms measured using the Montgomery–Åsberg Depression Rating Scale. The relative elevation in FT3 level was correlated with a decrease in regional glucose metabolism in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (rDLPFC; P < 0.05, corrected).


This study provided evidence of an association between a thyroid–catecholamine interaction and mood regulation in the rDLPFC.


Triiodothyronine PET Thyroid Depression Catecholamines Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex 



We are grateful to Nicolas Rodondi for his valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philipp Homan
    • 1
  • Wayne C. Drevets
    • 2
  • Gregor Hasler
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatric Neurophysiology, University Hospital of PsychiatryUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry, Laureate Institute for Brain ResearchThe University of Oklahoma School of MedicineTulsaUSA
  3. 3.University Hospital of PsychiatryUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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