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Prog Brain Res. 1991;88:159-65.

Single-unit and physiological analyses of brain norepinephrine function in behaving animals.

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Department of Psychology, Princeton University, NJ.


In behaving cats, the single-unit activity of locus coeruleus noradrenergic neurons is strongly activated by a variety of challenges (stressors). For example, exposing cats to a dog or to loud white noise, dramatically increases the activity of these neurons and simultaneously produces strong activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Similarly, glucoregulatory, thermoregulatory, and cardiovascular challenges also coactivate noradrenergic neurons and the sympathetic nervous system. A related research program utilized a simple brainstem response (the monosynaptic jaw closure reflex) to explore the physiological significance of this response of brain noradrenergic neurons. Conditions which activate these neurons were also shown to potentiate the elicited jaw closure-reflex response. Importantly, when the noradrenergic input to the motor side of this reflex pathway was destroyed with a neurotoxin, the conditions which previously potentiated the reflex were now ineffective. These data represent the first demonstration that the release of norepinephrine, at a specific site, and under physiological conditions, facilitates behavioral output in the intact organism.

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