The pharmacology of adrenergic neuronal responses in the cerebral cortex: evidence for excitatory alpha- and inhibitory beta-receptors

Br J Pharmacol. 1977 Apr;59(4):635-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.1977.tb07732.x.


1. The technique of microelectrophoresis was used to compare the actions of a range of adrenoceptor agonists on single cortical neurones in the rat anaesthetized with halothane. 2. Phenylephrine and methoxamine were exclusively excitatory, whereas salbutamol was entirely depressant. Noradrenaline and isoprenaline could evoke both excitatory and depressant responses. Lower doses of isoprenaline usually evoked depressions, whereas higher doses, on the same cell, evoked excitatory responses. 3. The alpha-adrenoceptor blocking agents, phentolamine and phenoxybenzamine, reversibly antagonized excitatory responses to adrenoceptor agonists, without affecting depressant responses to adrenoceptor agonists or excitatory responses to acetylcholine. 4. The beta-adrenoceptor blocking agents, propranolol and sotalol, reversibly antagonized both depressant and excitatory responses to adrenoceptor agonists, without affecting responses to acetylcholine. When the effect of sotalol on excitatory and depressant responses to adrenoceptor agonists was compared on the same cell, the depressant responses could be selectively antagonized, without affecting the excitatory responses. 5. It is concluded that (a) responses of cortical neurones to adrenoceptor agonists are mediated by both alpha- and beta-receptors; (b) these alpha- and beta-receptors give rise to opposite effects: the alpha-receptors being excitatory and the beta-receptors being inhibitory; and (c) responses of many neurones reflect the presence of both types of receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / pharmacology
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology
  • Cerebral Cortex / drug effects*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Adrenergic / physiology*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha / physiology*
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / drug effects
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta / physiology*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / cytology
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Sympathetic Nervous System / physiology


  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Receptors, Adrenergic
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, alpha
  • Receptors, Adrenergic, beta