The effects of an acute serotonergic challenge on brain-gut responses in irritable bowel syndrome patients and controls

Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Nov 1;22(9):865-74. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2036.2005.02660.x.


Background: Serotonin, a key denominator of the brain-gut axis is involved in the regulation of gastrointestinal function as well as cognition, mood and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis-mediated neuroendocrine responses.

Aim: To assess the effects of an acutely increased serotonergic activity, using a 20 mg intravenous citalopram challenge test on visceral perception, affective memory performance, mood and neuroendocrine responses, respectively, in diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome patients and controls.

Methods: In a randomized, double-blind crossover design, 14 diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome patients and 14 matched controls were studied under citalopram and placebo conditions, respectively. Visceral perception was scored in response to rectal distensions. Affective memory performance, mood, levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone, cortisol, prolactin and biochemical parameters of serotonergic metabolism were simultaneously assessed.

Results: Visceral perception did not significantly differ between the citalopram and placebo condition. Citalopram administration enhanced affective memory performance because of a bias towards positive material but no significant changes in mood. Citalopram significantly increased plasma serotonin, adrenocorticotropic hormone and cortisol levels compared with placebo. Citalopram did not differentially affect the patient or control group.

Conclusions: We have provided evidence that acutely increased serotonergic activity influences neuroendocrine responses and cognition in diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome and controls without a significant effect on visceral perception.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Citalopram / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / psychology
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement / methods
  • Perception / physiology
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Rectum / physiopathology
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Serotonin / blood


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • Serotonin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Prolactin
  • Hydrocortisone