Heesen C, Gold SM, Huitinga I, Reul JM.Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory and degenerative disease of the CNS with an assumed autoimmune-mediated pathogenesis. Stressful life events have been hypothesized as potential triggers of disease exacerbation. Animal studies using experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), as a model for MS, suggest that decreased hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) function may play a role in the increased susceptibility and severity of the disease. Histopathological studies of the hypothalamus point to disturbances in corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) regulation as a result of MS lesions in this area. Functional endocrine tests (e.g., the combined Dexamethasone-CRH test) showed a disturbed negative feedback after steroid application in MS patients. Hyper- and hypoactivity of the HPA axis, have been described to be associated with more severe courses. This paper presents an overview of the evidence for a role of HPA dysfunction in EAE and MS based on stress-experimental studies.
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