Stress and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis and multiple sclerosis - a review

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2007 Jul;32(6):604-18. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2007.05.002. Epub 2007 Jun 29.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Fetal Development / physiology
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Multiple Sclerosis / physiopathology*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*
  • Time Factors


  • Glucocorticoids