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Apomorphine, a direct-acting dopamine agonist, stimulates release of growth hormone (hGH) and suppresses release of prolactin (PRL) from the anterior pituitary. Previous studies comparing the magnitude of these responses in schizophrenics and controls suggest that many acute (and some chronic) schizophrenics have exaggerated hGH responses; many chronic schizophrenics (and patients with tardive dyskinesia) have blunted hGH responses to apomorphine, and possibly blunted PRL responses. The present studies extend and confirm these findings in chronic schizophrenics; in addition, several studies were undertaken to further characterize these apomorphine-induced endocrine responses. Studies in which apomorphine was given on 2 or 3 separate occasions to each of five subjects indicate that the hGH response is a highly reproducible individual index, but PRL suppression is a less satisfactory measure. hGH responses to apomorphine were consistently antagonized by pretreatment with haloperidol, supporting the concept that the hGH-releasing effect of apomorphine is mediated by its action on dopamine receptors. Cyproheptadine pretreatment was associated with erratic increases or decreases in the hGH response to apomorphine, but did not alter PRL levels or apomorphine-induced PRL suppression. The relationship of these findings to biological hypotheses of schizophrenia and to neuroleptic-induced receptor changes is discussed.
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