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Differential response of rapid eye movement sleep to cholinergic blockade by scopolamine in currently depressed, remitted, and normal control subjects.

Author(s): Poland RE, McCracken JT, Lutchmansingh P, Lesser IM, Tondo L, Edwards C, Boone KB, Lin KM.

Affiliation(s): Department of Psychiatry, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Torrance 90509, USA.

Publication date & source: 1997, Biol Psychiatry. , 41(9):929-38

The degree of cholinergic dysregulation of sleep in adult depression was evaluated using scopolamine. On separate sessions, placebo and scopolamine (4.5 micrograms/kg, IM) were administered to 14 patients with unipolar major depression, 16 recovered/remitted patients, and 18 normal controls. Scopolamine increased rapid eye movement (REM) latency (RL), reduced REM activity (RA), REM density (RD), and REM duration, and increased the percentage of stage 4 sleep in all groups. There was a differential effect of scopolamine on RL, RA, and REM duration for the first REM period, and on percentage of stage 4 sleep. Whereas a primary cholinergic hyperactivity could account for the RA and RD responses, the response profile for RL was more compatible with reduced aminergic tone as the proximal cause of the cholinergic hyperactivity. Whether the sleep abnormalities observed in remitted patients reflect an underlying vulnerability for development or recurrence of depression, and/or a scar, remains to be determined.

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