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Front Aging Neurosci. 2018 May 1;10:127. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2018.00127. eCollection 2018.

Noradrenergic Dysfunction in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Diseases-An Overview of Imaging Studies.

Peterson AC1,2, Li CR2,3,4.

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Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, North Haven, CT, United States.
Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.
Department of Neuroscience, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.
Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, United States.


Noradrenergic dysfunction contributes to cognitive impairment in Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and Parkinson's Disease (PD). Conventional therapeutic strategies seek to enhance cholinergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission in AD and PD, respectively, and few studies have examined noradrenergic dysfunction as a target for medication development. We review the literature of noradrenergic dysfunction in AD and PD with a focus on human imaging studies that implicate the locus coeruleus (LC) circuit. The LC sends noradrenergic projections diffusely throughout the cerebral cortex and plays a critical role in attention, learning, working memory, and cognitive control. The LC undergoes considerable degeneration in both AD and PD. Advances in magnetic resonance imaging have facilitated greater understanding of how structural and functional alteration of the LC may contribute to cognitive decline in AD and PD. We discuss the potential roles of the noradrenergic system in the pathogenesis of AD and PD with an emphasis on postmortem anatomical studies, structural MRI studies, and functional MRI studies, where we highlight changes in LC connectivity with the default mode network (DMN). LC degeneration may accompany deficient capacity in suppressing DMN activity and increasing saliency and task control network activities to meet behavioral challenges. We finish by proposing potential and new directions of research to address noradrenergic dysfunction in AD and PD.


MRI; dopamine; locus coeruleus; midbrain; neurodegeneration; neurodegenerative; norepinephrine; ventral tegmental area

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