Noradrenergic function in obsessive-compulsive disorder: Behavioral and neuroendocrine responses to clonidine and comparison to healthy controls

Eric Hollander, Concetta DeCaria, Anca Nitescu, Thomas Cooper, Bert Stover, Robert Gully, Donald F. Klein, Michael R. Liebowitz

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56 Scopus citations


To evaluate noradrenergic (NE) function in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), behavioral, phychological, and neuroendocrine responses to the α2-adrenergic agonist clonidine were examined in 18 patients with OCD and 10 healthy subjects. Subjects received single i.v. doses of 2μg/kg of clonidine administered under double-blind, placebo-controlled, random-assignment conditions. Following clonidine, but not following placebo, patients transiently experienced a significant reduction of obsessions and compulsions. Significant drowsiness and a reduction in anxiety were also noted, but the antiobsessional effect appeard independent of the soporific and antianxiety effects. Growth hormone (GH), cortisol, and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol responses to clonidine did not differentiate patients from healthy controls. Blood pressure and pulse in response to clonidine did not differ between groups. Improvement in OCD symptoms after clonidine significantly correlated with GH response to clonidine, suggesting specific noradrenergic mediation. This finding lends only partial support for a primary defect of noradrenergic function in OCD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-177
Number of pages17
JournalPsychiatry Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 1991
Externally publishedYes



  • 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • anxiety disorders
  • clonidine
  • growth hormone
  • norepinephrine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

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