, 205:151 | Cite as

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

  • Stuart WatsonEmail author
  • Kate Horton
  • Samantha Bulmer
  • Jane Carlile
  • Ciaran Corcoran
  • Peter Gallagher
  • I. Nicol Ferrier
Original Investigation



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.


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.


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.


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


Cortisol ACTH Adrenocorticotropic hormone Arginine vasopressin Neuropsychological Digit span 



The authors wish to thank the Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, the Mental Health Foundation North-East Branch and the Newcastle Healthcare Charity.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stuart Watson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kate Horton
    • 1
  • Samantha Bulmer
    • 1
  • Jane Carlile
    • 2
  • Ciaran Corcoran
    • 1
  • Peter Gallagher
    • 1
  • I. Nicol Ferrier
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Neuroscience, Leazes Wing (Psychiatry), Royal Victoria InfirmaryNewcastle UniversityNewcastleUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryNTW NHS TrustNewcastleUK

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