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Mech Ageing Dev. 1983 Sep;23(1):73-94.

The locus coeruleus and its possible role in ageing and degenerative disease of the human central nervous system.


The central noradrenergic pathways with the mammalian brain are principally based on that group of nerve cells within the reticular substance of the upper pons known as the locus coeruleus. The physiological role of these nerve cells appears to be one of maintaining homeostasis within the central nervous system, whatever adverse conditions prevail in the rest of the body, through governing the flow of blood through, and degree of water permeability of, the capillary bed. The extensive ramifications of these noradrenergic terminals mean that the atrophy and loss of nerve cells from locus coeruleus that occurs in old age, and especially so in degenerative diseases of the central nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease and other conditions, will have widespread repercussions for brain function. The chain of physiological disturbances set up as a result of this cell loss may mean a progressive failure of homeostasis within the brain, which in the extreme may culminate in that pattern of mental breakdown which is usually termed dementia.

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