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Brain Res Rev. 2008 Jun;58(1):1-17. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2007.10.013. Epub 2007 Dec 4.

Noradrenergic modulation of arousal.

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Psychology Department, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


Through a highly divergent efferent projection system, the locus coeruleus-noradrenergic system supplies norepinephrine throughout the central nervous system. State-dependent neuronal discharge activity of locus coeruleus neurons has long-suggested a role of this system in the induction of an alert waking state. More recent work supports this hypothesis, demonstrating robust wake-promoting actions of the locus coeruleus-noradrenergic system. Norepinephrine enhances arousal, in part, via actions of beta- and alpha1-receptors located within multiple subcortical structures, including the general regions of the medial septal area and the medial preoptic areas. Recent anatomical studies suggest that arousal-enhancing actions of norepinephrine are not limited to the locus coeruleus system and likely include the A1 and A2 noradrenergic cell groups. Thus, noradrenergic modulation of arousal state involves multiple noradrenergic systems acting within multiple subcortical regions. Pharmacological studies indicate that the combined actions of these systems are necessary for the sustained maintenance of arousal levels associated with spontaneous waking. Enhanced arousal state is a prominent aspect of both stress and psychostimulant drug action and evidence indicates that noradrenergic systems likely play an important role in both stress-related and psychostimulant-induced arousal. These and other observations suggest that the dysregulation of noradrenergic neurotransmission could well contribute to the dysregulation of arousal associated with a variety of behavioral disorders including insomnia and stress-related disorders.

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