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J Neural Transm (Vienna). 1998;105(6-7):561-73.

Effects of buspirone on plasma neurotransmitters in healthy subjects.

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Section of Psychopharmacology, Instituto de Medicina Experimental, Universidad Central de Venezuela.


Buspirone is an anxiolytic drug which exerts several central effects. It antagonizes presynaptic inhibitory DA2 autoreceptors at dopaminergic neurons and acts as an agonist for 5-HT1A inhibitor autoreceptors at serotonergic cells. Thus, buspirone respectively enhances and depresses the firing rates of both type of neurons. At doses which correlate with dopaminergic stimulation, but not 5-HT inhibition, buspirone also increases the firing rates of the central noradrenergic cells. We measured levels of circulating neurotransmitters before and up to 240 minutes after the oral administration of 20 mg of buspirone in 32 healthy volunteers. Buspirone significantly increased levels of noradrenaline, dopamine, and free serotonin but did not affect levels of adrenaline, tryptophane, or platelet serotonin. Small but significant drops in systolic blood pressure and heart rate were observed after buspirone ingestion. Atropine administration before buspirone ingestion annulled the free serotonin increase as well as systolic blood pressure-heart rate decrease. We found significant positive correlations between noradrenaline and dopamine levels. The strength and significance of these correlations were increased by using the noradrenaline/adrenaline ratio instead of noradrenaline absolute values. This finding indicates that increases in both noradrenaline and dopamine arise from sympathetic nerves rather than the adrenal glands. We also found significant negative correlations between free serotonin increases and systolic blood pressure-heart rate decreases. Our results indicate that buspirone stimulates central sympathetic activity. These acute effects of buspirone are reflected in an increased peripheral neural sympathetic activity, but not adrenal sympathetic activity in healthy individuals. In addition, buspirone increases free serotonin plasma concentrations and decreases systolic blood pressure plus heart rate levels through mechanisms associated with parasympathetic activation.

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