In a pilot therapeutic trial, four patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) were treated with long term, continuous infusions of TRH, three intrathecally and one epidurally. They had prompt increases in serum TSH and thyroid hormone concentrations, averaging 120% for TSH, 49% for serum T4, 68% for the serum free T4 index, 49% for serum T3, and 67% for the serum free T3 index. These elevations were statistically significant for all but serum T3 and persisted for the duration of treatment (4-7 months). Mean values during treatment were near the upper limit of normal for each of these hormone measurements. After TRH withdrawal, serum TSH fell transiently below the normal range. A comparison group of four patients with ALS treated by twice weekly intrathecal bolus doses of TRH had no significant changes in serum TSH, T4, or T3. During continuous TRH treatment, the responsiveness of both TSH and PRL to a standard iv TRH stimulation test was blunted, but not abolished. Basal serum PRL was occasionally elevated in the two women during continuous TRH treatment, but was normal in the men, and serum GH was normal in all patients. In the patients receiving continuous TRH treatment, indexes of end-organ effects of thyroid hormone were inconclusive; none had a rise in serum ferritin, one of four had a rise in serum sex hormone-binding globulin, and three had increased creatinuria. These results provide direct evidence in man that chronic TRH administration can cause modest sustained increases in serum TSH and thyroid hormones, though the metabolic consequences of these changes are uncertain, and appears to raise the set-point of the pituitary-thyroid axis, i.e. the serum T4 and T3 concentrations needed for a given degree of suppression of basal TSH secretion.