Behavioral, biochemical and neuroendocrine responses to amphetamine in normal twins and 'well-state' bipolar patients

John I. Nurnberger, Elliot S. Gershon, Susan Simmons, Michael Ebert, Linda R. Kessler, Eleanor D. Dibble, Suzanne S. Jimerson, Gregory M. Brown, Philip Gold, David C. Jimerson, Juliet J. Guroff, Fredric I. Storch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Scopus citations


An i.v. injection of dextroamphetamine (0.3 mgm/kg) was given to 13 pairs of normal monozygotic twins, three pairs of normal dizygotic twins and 11 patients with bipolar affective disorder in remission and off medications. Behavioral excitation in response to amphetamine was highly correlated in monozygotic twins; it was predicted by the baseline variables of high plasma MHPG, low serum prolactin and low pulse; it correlated with a rise in cortisol; and it was not correlated with plasma amphetamine level. Pre-infusion baseline MHPG and growth hormone and prolactin responses to amphetamine also were concordant in twins. Plasma amphetamine level, pulse and blood pressure and cortisol responses were not concordant, suggesting significant environmental influences. Haloperidol pretreatment in one pair of twins abolished the excitation response but did not reduce increases in cortisol and growth hormone. This suggests a role for dopamine in the excitation response but predominant serotonergic and noradrenergic mediation of the hormonal responses. None of the responses or baseline measures distinguished patients from controls. Thus, no consistently altered sensitivity to monoaminergic stimulation by amphetamine in bipolar affective disorder was demonstrated in this study. This is one of the first reports of familial (possibly genetic) variation in a psychostimulant drug response in man. The responses identified as concordant may be useful in characterizing other pathologic conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)163-176
Number of pages14
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

Cite this

Nurnberger, J. I., Gershon, E. S., Simmons, S., Ebert, M., Kessler, L. R., Dibble, E. D., Jimerson, S. S., Brown, G. M., Gold, P., Jimerson, D. C., Guroff, J. J., & Storch, F. I. (1982). Behavioral, biochemical and neuroendocrine responses to amphetamine in normal twins and 'well-state' bipolar patients. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 7(2-3), 163-176.