Norepinephrine, a chemical fundamental to brain performance, is locally regulated in a region of the brain called the visual cortex, according to a study from the University of Texas at San Antonio Health Sciences Center. The research has been published in the “Science Advances Journal”.
“Prior to our study, research suggested the possibility of local regulation of norepinephrine release, but this had never been directly demonstrated,” said lead author of the study, Martin Paukert, MD, assistant professor. of Cellular and Integrative Physiology at UT Health San Antonio. The work of the team, which included Shawn R. Gray, PhD, and Liang Ye, MD, of the Paukert Lab and Jing Yong Ye, PhD, of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at San Antonio, was supported by the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and the Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
Norepinephrine is known to be involved in mindfulness. “A certain amount of this chemical must be released for optimal brain performance and attention span,” said Dr Paukert.
“So if there is too much or not enough, it can affect the way we handle information,” he added. Medical conditions in which norepinephrine is known to be impaired include substance use disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD). In some drug addictions, Alzheimer’s disease and ADHD, the release of norepinephrine is reduced, resulting in decreased attention. In other substance use and PTSD the level is too high.
The team’s findings also extended to cells called astrocytes that function as helper cells in the brain and central nervous system. “When a person makes a movement, like turning their head to listen to a parent, and that is combined with visual stimulation, then more norepinephrine is released where visual information is processed,” said Dr Paukert.
“Our second and equally important finding is that astrocytes can reliably sense the rate of norepinephrine release,” he added. They are sensitive to it, in other words. Astrocytes altered their response as a result, which should alter brain performance.
“Understanding the release of norepinephrine, its local regulation, and the response of astrocytes may represent a mechanism by which one could improve specific sensory attention,” said Dr. Paukert. Research will continue in this direction. (ANI)
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