Neuroendocrine responses to a cold pressor stimulus in polydipsic hyponatremic and in matched schizophrenic patients

Morris B. Goldman*, Jennifer Gnerlich, Nadeem Hussain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Schizophrenia, many believe, reflects an enhanced vulnerability to psychological stress. Controlled exposure to stressors, however, has produced inconclusive results, particularly with regards to neurohormones. Some of the variability may be attributable to the nature and psychological significance of the stimulus and failure to control physiologic confounds. In addition, it is possible that the heterogeneity of schizophrenia is an important factor. In a carefully designed study and in a controlled setting, we measured the neuroendocrine response of eight polydipsic hyponatremic (PHS), seven polydipsic normonatremic (PNS), and nine nonpolydipsic normonatremic (NNS) (ie normal water balance) schizophrenic in-patients as well as 12 healthy controls (HC) to two different stressors: one of which appears to influence neuroendocrine secretion through its psychological (cold pressor) and the other (upright posture) through its systemic actions. Subjects in the three psychiatric groups were stabilized and acclimated to the research setting, and all received saline to normalize plasma osmolality. Following the cold pressor, plasma adrenocorticotropin and cortisol levels showed a more prolonged rise in PHS patients relative to PNS patients. NNS patients, in contrast, exhibited blunted responses relative to both of the polydipsic groups and the HC. Peak vasopressin responses were also greater in PHS and blunted in NNS patients. Responses to the postural stimulus were similar across patient groups. These findings provide a mechanism for life threatening water intoxication in schizophrenia; help to reconcile conflicting findings of stress responsiveness in schizophrenia; and potentially identify a discrete patient subset with enhanced vulnerability to psychological stress.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1611-1621
Number of pages11
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hippocampus
  • Schizophrenia
  • Stress
  • Vasopressin
  • Water intoxication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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