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Plasma homovanillic acid concentrations in catatonia

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      We investigated the dopamine metabolite plasma homovanillic acid (plasma HVA) levels in 37 catatonic patients on the day of admission before initial medication as well as in 17 healthy controls.
      In a prospective study catatonic syndrome was diagnosed according to criteria of
      • Lohr J
      • Wiesniwski A
      Movement Disorders.
      and
      • Rosebush P
      • Furlong B
      • Mazurek M
      Catatonic syndrome in a general inpatient population: Frequency, clinical presentation and response to lorazepam.
      whereas comorbid diagnosis was made by
      • American Psychological Association, Committee on Nomenclature and Statistics
      . On the day of admission blood samples were taken before initial medication. Compared to controls (80.1 ± 40.1 pmol/mL) catatonic patients showed significantly (p = 0.0286) increased plasma HVA (140.9 ± 53.6 pmol/mL). Catatonic patients free of neuroleptic medication (n = 21) differed significantly (p = 0.0416) from controls whereas neuroleptically treated catatonics (n = 16) did not.
      Our findings of increased plasma HVA in catatonia are explained by an alteration in either mesolimbic or mesocortical dopaminergic function, as is assumed in the case of schizophrenia. As an alternative, it may be due to increased nigrostriatal function, which can lead, as shown in animal experiments with the dopamine agonist amphetamine, to hypokinetic states resembling catatonia in humans.
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