Eye-blink rates and depression. Is the antidepressant effect of sleep deprivation mediated by the dopamine system?
Ebert D; Albert R; Hammon G; Strasser B; May A; Merz A
Department of Psychiatry,
University of Erlangen, Germany.
Neuropsychopharmacology, 1996 Oct, 15:4, 332-9


A series of studies demonstrated a possible correlation between eye-blink rate and central dopamine activity. The hypothesis has been put forward that the antidepressant effect of sleep deprivation (SD) is mediated by an enhanced dopamine release resulting in an amphetaminelike action of SD. Therefore, the blink rates of 12 drug-naive patients with major depression and 12 healthy controls were compared before and after SD and before and after 2.5 mg bromocriptine as a dopaminergic challenge. The main result of the study was that the depressed patients had a significantly higher increase of blinking after SD both with and without a dopaminergic challenge. Basal eye-blink rate was not different in nonretarded major depression patients compared to controls. Sleep deprivation increased blink rate in depression patients but not in controls, and the increase was proportional to improvements in depressive state after sleep deprivation. Bromocriptine did not increase blink rate 1 hour after application. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that antidepressant SD acts through dopamine release, although it is not conclusive, because other neurotransmitters like acetylcholine may be involved in the regulation of blinking.

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