The role of norepinephrine in epilepsy: from the bench to the bedside

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2004 Sep;28(5):507-24. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2004.06.008.


This article provides a brief review of the role of norepinephrine (NE) in epilepsy, starting from early studies reproducing the kindling model in NE-lesioned rats, through the use of specific ligands for adrenergic receptors in experimental models of epilepsy, up to recent advances obtained by using transgenic and knock-out mice for specific genes expressed in the NE system. Data obtained from multiple experimental models converge to demonstrate the antiepileptic role of endogenous NE. This effect predominantly consists in counteracting the development of an epileptic circuit (such as in the kindling model) rather than increasing the epileptic threshold. This suggests that NE activity is critical in modifying epilepsy-induced neuronal changes especially on the limbic system. These data encompass from experimental models to clinical applications as recently evidenced by the need of an intact NE innervation for the antiepileptic mechanisms of vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) in patients suffering from refractory epilepsy. Finally, recent data demonstrate that NE loss increases neuronal damage following focally induced limbic status epilepticus, confirming a protective effect of brain NE, which has already been shown in other neurological disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Agonists / therapeutic use
  • Adrenergic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Brain / pathology
  • Epilepsy / drug therapy
  • Epilepsy / genetics
  • Epilepsy / pathology
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Kindling, Neurologic / physiology
  • Limbic System / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neural Pathways / pathology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology
  • Norepinephrine / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Seizures / chemically induced
  • Seizures / physiopathology
  • Status Epilepticus / pathology


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Adrenergic Antagonists
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Norepinephrine