© 2018 Elsevier Ltd Cognitive deficits are a core feature of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD) and are a common cause of functional disability. There is limited efficacy of pharmacological interventions for improving the cognitive deficits in these disorders. As pro-cognitive pharmacological treatments are lacking, hormones or drugs that target the endocrine system may become potential candidates for ‘repurposing’ trials aiming to improve cognition. We aimed to study whether treatment with drugs targeting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sex steroids can improve cognition in patients with schizophrenia, MDD or BD. A systematic search was performed using PubMed (Medline), PsychInfo and clinicaltrials.gov, and a narrative synthesis was included. The systematic review identified 12 studies dealing with HPA-related drugs (mifepristone [n = 3], cortisol synthesis inhibitors [ketoconazole, n = 2], dehydroepiandrosterone [n = 5], fludrocortisone [n = 2]) and 14 studies dealing with sex steroids (oestradiol [n = 2], selective oestrogen receptor modulators [raloxifene, n = 7], pregnenolone [n = 5]). Positive trials were found for BD (mifepristone), MDD (dehydroepiandrosterone and fludrocortisone) and schizophrenia (dehydroepiandrosterone, raloxifene and pregnenolone). A replication of positive findings by at least two clinical trials was found for mifepristone in BD and raloxifene and pregnenolone in schizophrenia. The use of drugs targeting hormones related to the HPA axis and sex steroids is a promising field of research that might help to improve the cognitive outcome of patients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder in the near future.
- Bipolar disorder
- Sex steroids