Motivation and emotion/Book/2016/Norepinephrine and emotion

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Norepinephrine and emotion:
What is the relationship between norepinephrine and emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Neurotransmitters play an important part in our complex brain biology. Chemicals released in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine all help with certain functions in which our body requires. The analysis of the brain structure in the second millennia, and then the start of cellular and molecular analysis in the 20th century all have been on a basic level, in which science has only started to understand and explain neuroanatomy. In the 21st century scientific advancements have looked into the link between neural communication and emotions.  This book chapter consequently explores what the neurotransmitter norepinephrine is along with emotions and the relationship between the two.

Definitions[edit | edit source]

This section will highlight some key defintions relevant to the chapter.

Neurotransmitters[edit | edit source]

A neurotransmitter is a chemical messenger that allows neurons to communicate (Melasch et al., 2016). For instance, they relay information to tell your heart to beat, your lungs to breathe and allow your body to regulate chemicals. Neurotransmitters are released at the end of a nerve fiber via the arrival of a nerve impulse, they then cross the synapse, this effects the next nerve fiber (Harmer, Hill, Taylor, Cowen, & Goodwin, 2003) (See Figure 1)

Figure 1. Neurotransmitter system[Provide more detail]

Norepinephrine[edit | edit source]

Norepinephrine (NE), also called noradrenaline (NA) or noradrenalin is in the family of catecholamines (working as both a neurotransmitter and hormone) which tracts in the central nervous system (Salgado, Treviño, & Atzori, 2016). It is also a neurohormone stored in the chromaffin granules of the adrenal medulla and is released in response to sympathetic stimulation in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (Pascucci, Ventura, Latagliata, Cabib, & Puglisi-Allegra, 2007).

In the brain, norepinephrine is produced in closely packed brain cell neurons or nuclei that are small yet have powerful effects on other brain areas. The most important of these nuclei is the locus coeruleus, located in the pons (Levenson, 2014). In the sympathetic nervous system, norepinephrine is used as a neurotransmitter by sympathetic ganglia located near the spinal cord, and it is released directly into the bloodstream by the adrenal glands. Norepinephrine acts on target cells by binding to and activating noradrenergic receptors located on the cell surface (Lovatt, 2011). Norepinephrine's main roles include assisting in the brain processes responsible for fast memory, quick reaction time, mental energy, alertness and attention, goal seeking and sexual behaviour (Gu, Wang, Wang, & Huang, 2016).

Figure 2. The frontal lobe of a human brain labeled.

Some symptoms associated with normal and excess levels of Norepinephrine[edit | edit source]

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sympathetic nervous system stimulation
  • Vasoconstriction
  • Smooth muscle relaxation
  • Liver glucose release
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dilation of air passages in the lungs and narrowing of blood vessels in non-essential organs
  • Anxiety
  • Hostility
  • Excessive vigilance


Emotions[edit | edit source]

In everyday speech, emotion is termed as the conscious experience described by intense mental activity. In psychology, emotion is termed as the complex state of feelings both physical and psychological. Emotion is influenced by physiological arousal, expressive behaviours, and conscious experience (Lee, 2011; Ramirez & Cabanac, 2003). The reflective emphasis on the “feeling” aspect of emotions had a prominent role in the development of theories of emotion. Darwin argued as early as 1872 that both observable expressions of emotions as well as underlying brain processes are not unique to humans (Koob, 2015).

It is important to understand the neuroscience behind emotion and the cognitive function of emotion. We interpret our immediate emotional experience in the context of our past experiences, which provides the framework that allows us to label our feelings. (Lee, 2011). Six emotions were proposed based on extensive cross-cultural work on facial expressions these are:

  1. happiness
  2. surprise
  3. fear
  4. sadness
  5. anger
  6. disgust combined with contempt (Ekman & Friesen, 1986)
Figure 3 Emotions; Happy and Sad

Relationships[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Neurotransmitters and Emotions[edit | edit source]

The neural circuits involved in emotions are modulated by numerous chemical neurotransmitters. A balance of neurotransmitters is necessary for normal emotional states and arousal (Gerra et al., 1998). Neurotransmitter levels can be high, low or unevenly balanced. With excessively low levels moods may be flat, with emotion ranging from sadness and numbness. When levels are high, mood levels are erratic and unpredictable (Dremencov, el Mansari, & Blier, 2009). Aspects of personality can be affected by three major neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Neurotransmitter balance is influenced by nutrition, environmental, genetic and external emotional stimulus. Locus coeruleus cell bodies contain norepinephrine and innervate all areas of cortex, cerebellum and spinal cord (Flik, Folgering, Cremers, Westerink, & Dremencov, 2015; Lovatt, 2011).

Figure 4 Common Neurotransmitters

Norepinephrine and emotions[edit | edit source]

Emotion boosts our ability to form vivid memories,{{g]] norepinephrine released during emotional arousal, plays a central part in providing a molecular mechanism for how emotion enhances learning and memory (Hu et al., 2007). Norepinephrine alters emotions and is critical in enhancing emotional content. (Harrison, Morgan, & Critchley, 2010; Pringle, McCabe, Cowen, & Harmer, 2013; Segal, Stark, Kattan, Stark, & Yassa, 2012) Emotionally poignant experiences release adrenaline and encourages the release of norepinephrine (Nicholson, Bryant, & Felmingham, 2014). Norepinephrine is also released when emotions are artificaly induced by manually stimulating the brain (Panksepp & Watt, 2011).

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In conclusion, norepinephrine which arises from the locus coeruleus is released, the amount of the neurotransmitter released will dictate emotions ranging from the normal levels of emotion to the critical levels which then affects emotions to become unpredictable, such as depression[Provide more detail]. Norepinephrine also plays a major part in relation to adrenaline which helps when dealing with flight or flight[Provide more detail].

Quiz[edit | edit source]

1 Norepinephrine (NE) projections arise from the locus coeruleus and reach all cortical areas.


2 Arousal is one of the functions of Norepinephrine?


3 The locus coeruleus is located in the hippocampus


4 There are 7 different types of emotions


5 Emotional current experience can be interpreted by past experience


See also[edit | edit source]

Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Norepinephrine and emotional disorders

References[edit | edit source]

Aschbacher, K., Mills, P. J., Känel, R. v., Hong, S., Mausbach, B. T., Roepke, S. K., . . . Grant, I. (2008). Effects of depressive and anxious symptoms on norepinephrine and platelet P-selectin responses to acute psychological stress among elderly caregivers. Brain Behavior and Immunity, 22(4), 493-502. doi:10.1016/j.bbi.2007.10.002

Dremencov, E., el Mansari, M., & Blier, P. (2009). Brain norepinephrine system as a target for antidepressant and mood stabilizing medications. Current drug targets U6, 10(11), 1061.

Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1986). A new pan-cultural facial expression of emotion. Motivation and emotion, 10(2), 159-168.

Flik, G., Folgering, J. H. A., Cremers, T. I. H. F., Westerink, B. H. C., & Dremencov, E. (2015). Interaction Between Brain Histamine and Serotonin, Norepinephrine, and Dopamine Systems: In Vivo Microdialysis and Electrophysiology Study. Journal of Molecular Neuroscience, 56(2), 320-328. doi:10.1007/s12031-015-0536-3

Gerra, G., Zaimovic, A., Giucastro, G., Folli, F., Maestri, D., Tessoni, A., . . . Brambilla, F. (1998). Neurotransmitter-hormonal responses to psychological stress in peripubertal subjects: Relationship to aggressive behavior. Life Sciences, 62(7), 617-625. doi:10.1016/S0024-3205(97)01157-0

Gu, S., Wang, W., Wang, F., & Huang, J. H. (2016). Neuromodulator and Emotion Biomarker for Stress Induced Mental Disorders. Neural Plasticity, 2016, 1-6. doi:10.1155/2016/2609128

Harmer, C. J., Hill, S. A., Taylor, M. J., Cowen, P. J., & Goodwin, G. M. (2003). Toward a Neuropsychological Theory of Antidepressant Drug Action: Increase in Positive Emotional Bias After Potentiation of Norepinephrine Activity. The American journal of psychiatry, 160(5), 990-992. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.160.5.990

Harrison, N. A., Morgan, R., & Critchley, H. D. (2010). From facial mimicry to emotional empathy: A role for norepinephrine ? Social Neuroscience, 5(4), 393-400. doi:10.1080/17470911003656330

Hu, H., Real, E., Takamiya, K., Kang, M.-G., Ledoux, J., Huganir, R. L., & Malinow, R. (2007). Emotion Enhances Learning via Norepinephrine Regulation of AMPA-Receptor Trafficking. Cell, 131(1), 160-173. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2007.09.017

Koob, G. F. (2015). The dark side of emotion: the addiction perspective. European journal of pharmacology, 753, 73-87. doi:10.1016/j.ejphar.2014.11.044

LeDoux, J. (2012). A neuroscientist’s perspective on debates about the nature of emotion. Emotion Review, 4(4), 375-379.

Lee, D. (2011). Emotional Maturity Psychology (Vol. Second Edition pp. 310). New York: Worth Publishers

Levenson, R. W. (2014). The Autonomic Nervous System and Emotion. Emotion Review, 6(2), 100-112.

Lovatt, P. (2011). Serotonin–norepinephrine inhibitors: pharmacological profile. Nurse Prescribing, 9(7), 350-352. doi:10.12968/npre.2011.9.7.350

Melasch, J., Rullmann, M., Hilbert, A., Luthardt, J., Becker, G. A., Patt, M., . . . Pleger, B. (2016). The central nervous norepinephrine network links a diminished sense of emotional well-being to an increased body weight. International journal of obesity, 40(5), 779.

Nicholson, E. L., Bryant, R. A., & Felmingham, K. L. (2014). Interaction of noradrenaline and cortisol predicts negative intrusive memories in posttraumatic stress disorder. NEUROBIOLOGY OF LEARNING AND MEMORY, 112, 204-211. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2013.11.018

Outhred, T., Hawkshead, B. E., Wager, T. D., Das, P., Malhi, G. S., & Kemp, A. H. (2013). Acute neural effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors versus noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors on emotion processing: Implications for differential treatment efficacy. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 37(8), 1786-1800.

Panksepp, J., & Watt, D. (2011). What is basic about basic emotions? Lasting lessons from affective neuroscience. Emotion Review, 3(4), 387-396.

Pascucci, T., Ventura, R., Latagliata, E. C., Cabib, S., & Puglisi-Allegra, S. (2007). The Medial Prefrontal Cortex Determines the Accumbens Dopamine Response to Stress through the Opposing Influences of Norepinephrine and Dopamine. Cerebral Cortex, 17(12), 2796-2804. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhm008

Pringle, A., McCabe, C., Cowen, P. J., & Harmer, C. J. (2013). Antidepressant treatment and emotional processing: can we dissociate the roles of serotonin and noradrenaline? JOURNAL OF PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY, 27(8), 719-731. doi:10.1177/0269881112474523

Salgado, H., Treviño, M., & Atzori, M. (2016). Layer- and area-specific actions of norepinephrine on cortical synaptic transmission. Brain Research, 1641(Pt B), 163-176. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2016.01.033

Segal, S. K., Stark, S. M., Kattan, D., Stark, C. E., & Yassa, M. A. (2012). Norepinephrine-mediated emotional arousal facilitates subsequent pattern separation. NEUROBIOLOGY OF LEARNING AND MEMORY, 97(4), 465. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2012.03.010

External Links[edit | edit source]