Nocturnal melatonin and cortisol secretion in newly admitted psychiatric inpatients

Implications for affective disorders
  • Meir Steiner
  • Gregory M. Brown
  • Sue Goldman
Original Articles


Melatonin secretion has been suggested as a marker of both circadian and noradrenergic dysfunction in affective disorders. Seventy-two newly admitted psychiatric inpatients [49 with major depressive disorder (MDD), 12 with schizophrenia, and 11 with intermittent depressive disorder (IDD)] underwent neuroendocrine screening at 0200, 0800, 1600 and 2300 hours prior to and the day following dexamethasone administration. All groups showed a drop in cortisol following dexamethasone. Dexamethasone nonsuppression was found in 20 of 49 patients with MDD, in none of the schizophrenics and in none of those with intermittent depressive disorder. Mean melatonin levels decreased significantly after the administration of dexamethasone across all four groups. Overall, the schizophrenic group had a significantly greater mean melatonin level than each of other three groups, whereas the three depressive groups did not differ significantly from one another. Only at 2300 hours did both the schizophrenic group and the MDD patients with normal dexamethasone suppression show significantly greater melatonin levels than the MDD patients with dexamethasone nonsuppression or the IDD group. The observed trend for a low circadian melatonin profile in IDD patients with superimposed personality disorders is puzzling.

Key words

Melatonin Cortisol Depression 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meir Steiner
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Gregory M. Brown
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sue Goldman
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychiatryMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biomedical SciencesMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Clinical Studies Program, McMaster Psychiatric UnitSt. Joseph's HospitalHamiltonCanada

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