Endocrine and cytokine responses to acute psychological stress in multiple sclerosis

Brain Behav Immun. 2002 Jun;16(3):282-7. doi: 10.1006/brbi.2001.0628.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Catecholamines / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / immunology*
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / blood
  • Multiple Sclerosis / immunology*
  • Neuroimmunomodulation / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / immunology*
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Catecholamines
  • Interleukin-6
  • Receptors, Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Hydrocortisone