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Thomas A. Ban: Depression and the Tricyclic Antidepressants. Chapter Four: Depression. Central Cholinergic Mechanisms. Montreal: Ronalds Federated; 1974, pp. 45-6


Samuel Gershon’s commentary


         A repetition clinical experiment undertaken by us at NYU reproduced the effect of injection of physostigmine in severely manic patients at Bellevue. This work was also presented  before either of these studies by an unusual double-blind study at the Maudsley  which demonstrated this effect in a clinically ill population (Rowntree, Nevin and Wilson 1950).

         The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Canberra, Australia, came to us in Melbourne with a question as to how and why were so many of their scientists  working in one lab were reporting sick. This lab was working on herbicides that included one particular class - organophosphorus insecticides.  We were given full access to workers and found their distress, mainly depression, was caused by an increase of acetylcholine in brain of the affected cases. We then did a survey of a fruit-growing district of Victoria, Australia, and found this same illness pattern. Thus, cholinergic mechanisms are forced upon us in considering depression (Gershon and Shaw 1961). In this paper we quoted a reference to a Maudsley group who had done an experiment in normal humans  and exposed them to this stuff and induced psychiatric sequelae.



Gershon S, Shaw FH. Psychiatric sequelae of chronic exposure to organophosphorus insecticides. Lancet. 1961 Jun 24;1(7191):1371-4.

Rowntree DW, Nevin S Wilson A. The effects of diisopropylfluorophosphonate in schizophrenia and manic depressive psychosis. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1950 Feb;13(1):47-62.


June 27, 2019