Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Disregulation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in the mentally retarded.


Previous reports of cognitive and social improvement in the mentally retarded after administration of MSH/ACTH fragments suggested disregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The current study examined the integrity of this system with the Dexamethasone Suppression Test (DST). The DST is a biological index of HPA integrity and recently has been used as a diagnostic aid for endogenous depression. Thirty-five mentally retarded patients were administered 1 mg of dexamethasone just after a sample of blood was taken. Blood samples were analyzed for cortisol by RIA at 11:00 p.m. (basal), 8:00 a.m., 4:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m. Between 40% and 48% (depending on sampling) of the patients failed to suppress cortisol (greater than 4 micrograms/dl), after the DST challenge. The results suggested that a significant proportion of mentally retarded patients have a DST index reflecting a disordered HPA axis and complements earlier studies of cognitive enhancement observed after treatment with MSH/ACTH fragments. The possibility that the stress of hospitalization was related to a disordered HPA was suggested. The possible co-existence of depression in the mentally retarded invites further study.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View