Noradrenaline and cerebral aging
Jouvet M, Albarede JL, Lubin S, Meyrignac C.
Laboratoire de Medecine Experimentale,
Faculte de Medecine, Lyon.
Encephale 1991 May-Jun;17(3):187-95
The central functions of norepinephrine (NE) are a recent discovery: regulation of alertness and of the wakefulness-sleep cycle, maintenance of attention, memory and learning, cerebral plasticity and neuro-protection. The anatomical, histological, biochemical and physiological properties of the central noradrenergic system: extreme capacity for ramification and arborization; slow conduction, non-myelinized axons with extrasynaptic varicosities producing and releasing NE; frequency of co-transmission phenomena, and; neuromodulation with fiber effect responsible for improvement in the signal over background noise ratio and selection of significant stimuli form a true interface between the outside world and the central nervous system, notably for the neocortex in the context of the cognitive treatment of information. This central noradrenergic system is involved in the neurophysiology and the clinical features of cerebral aging (ideation-motor and cognitive function slowing down, loss of behavioral adjustment), neuro-degenerative disorders (SDAT, Parkinson’s disease), certain aspects of depression and less obvious conditions (head injuries, sequelae of cerebrovascular accidents, sub-cortical dementia). The recent development of medications improving alertness (adrafinil, modafinil) with a pure central action and specifically noradrenergic, may contribute to an improvement in these multifactorial disorders.