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Increased neurosteroid sensitivity - An explanation to symptoms associated with chronic work related stress in women?
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
2013 (English)In: Psychoneuroendocrinology, ISSN 0306-4530, E-ISSN 1873-3360, Vol. 38, no 7, 1078-1089 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Work related psychosocial stress can be accompanied by so called burnout syndrome with symptoms of mental exhaustion, physical fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction. Underlying mechanisms for acquiring burnout syndrome are not clear. Animal studies show that chronic stress is associated with altered release of GABA-A receptor modulating steroids (GAMS), altered composition of the GABA-A receptor and altered sensitivity to GAMS. In the present study we investigated if such changes occur in women with burnout syndrome. We further asked whether flumazenil (a benzodiazepine antagonist, but with positive modulating effects on GABA-A receptors with altered subunit composition) can block the effect of the GAMS allopregnanolone. Ten women with occupational psychosocial stress and burnout syndrome were compared with twelve healthy controls in an experimental setting. Saccadic eye velocity (SEV) was measured after an injection of allopregnanolone, followed by an injection of flumazenil and a second injection of allopregnanolone. The sensitivity to allopregnanolone was significantly higher in the patients compared to controls after the first injection (p = 0.04) and the difference increased when the response per allopregnanolone concentration unit was compared ( p = 0.006). Following the flumazenil injection the burnout patients (p= 0.016), but not controls, showed a decrease in SEV and flumazenil acted like a positive modulator that is agonistic. There was no significant difference between the groups after second allopregnanolone injection. In conclusion, patients with work related psychosocial stress and burnout syndrome show a different response to GABA-A receptor modulators than controls suggesting a changed GABA-A receptor function in these patients. More precisely we hypothesize that the alpha 4 and delta subunits are up-regulated elevating the responsiveness to allopregnanolone and change the effect of flumazenil, which provides a potential explanation to the burnout syndrome. Flumazenil does not block the effect of allopregnanolone.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Pergamon Press, 2013. Vol. 38, no 7, 1078-1089 p.
Keyword [en]
Allopregnanolone challenge, Burnout syndrome, Saccadic velocity
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-78957DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.10.014ISI: 000320412400013OAI: diva2:638252
Swedish Research Council, 4X-11198

This study was funded by grants from Swedish research council, project number 4X-11198, and the EU structural fund, objective 1, Svenska läkaresallskapet, Visare Norr, Umea University Foundations and ALE rnedel from Västerbottens Läns Landsting.

Available from: 2013-07-29 Created: 2013-07-29 Last updated: 2014-08-28Bibliographically approved

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Bäckström, TorbjörnBixo, MarieNyberg, Sigrid
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