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Neuroscience. 1999;93(4):1263-70.

Relationship between locus coeruleus discharge rates and rates of norepinephrine release within neocortex as assessed by in vivo microdialysis.

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Psychology Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison 53705, USA.


The relationship between discharge rates of locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons and rates of norepinephrine release was examined in the anesthetized rat. Neuronal discharge rates of locus coeruleus neurons were altered and quantified using a combined recording-infusion probe. Peri-locus coeruleus infusions of either the cholinergic agonist, bethanechol, or the alpha2-agonist, clonidine, were used to enhance or suppress neuronal discharge activity, respectively. Alterations in concentrations of extracellular norepinephrine within the prefrontal cortex were determined using in vivo microdialysis and high-pressure liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. A linear relationship between locus coeruleus activity and norepinephrine dialysate concentration was observed between complete suppression of locus coeruleus discharge activity and approximately 300-400% of basal discharge levels (1.58+/-0.29 Hz). Above these levels, increases in locus coeruleus discharge rates were not accompanied by similar increases in dialysate norepinephrine concentrations. In general, neither activation nor suppression of locus coeruleus neuronal discharge rates appeared to alter the relationship between discharge activity and norepinephrine efflux during subsequent epochs. The one exception to this was observed during recovery from relatively high-magnitude locus coeruleus activation. In two out of three cases in which locus coeruleus discharge rates were increased greater than 450%, a recovery of norepinephrine concentrations to basal levels occurred more quickly than the recovery of locus coeruleus neuronal discharge rates to basal levels. Although limited, these latter observations suggest that dysregulation of norepinephrine release may occur following sustained activation of locus coeruleus at the highest rates examined, which may mimic those associated with intense arousal or stress.

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