Heesen C, Schulz H, Schmidt M, Gold S, Tessmer W, Schulz KH.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. An impaired hypothalamopituitary axis and stress reactivity have extensively been discussed without convincing experimental evidence. We choose a standardized acute psychological stressor to determine whether MS patients show altered endocrine and immune responses to stress. In 35 relapsing-remitting MS patients we found elevated baseline levels for catecholamines, prolactin, and IL-6 compared to 15 healthy controls. All neuroendocrine parameters declined during the stress intervention in MS as well as in stress-exposed controls. But only prolactin showed a significantly larger decline in stressed MS patients versus controls. During exposure to the stress we found no significant changes in serum levels of IL-6, IL-6 receptor, or TNF-alpha in either MS patients or controls after stimulation of a whole blood culture. An altered neural immune signaling in relapsing-remitting MS patients during acute experimental stress could not be proven for the parameters analyzed.

Brain Behav. Immun. 2002;16:282-7.

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