The neuropsychopharmacology of fronto-executive function: monoaminergic modulation

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2009;32:267-87. doi: 10.1146/annurev.neuro.051508.135535.


We review the modulatory effects of the catecholamine neurotransmitters noradrenaline and dopamine on prefrontal cortical function. The effects of pharmacologic manipulations of these systems, sometimes in comparison with the indoleamine serotonin (5-HT), on performance on a variety of tasks that tap working memory, attentional-set formation and shifting, reversal learning, and response inhibition are compared in rodents, nonhuman primates, and humans using, in a behavioral context, several techniques ranging from microiontophoresis and single-cell electrophysiological recording to pharmacologic functional magnetic resonance imaging. Dissociable effects of drugs and neurotoxins affecting these monoamine systems suggest new ways of conceptualizing state-dependent fronto-executive functions, with implications for understanding the molecular genetic basis of mental illness and its treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Catecholamines / metabolism*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / metabolism
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / physiopathology
  • Neuropharmacology / methods
  • Neuropharmacology / trends
  • Prefrontal Cortex / anatomy & histology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / metabolism*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Serotonin / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology


  • Catecholamines
  • Serotonin