Orienting and reorienting: the locus coeruleus mediates cognition through arousal

Neuron. 2012 Oct 4;76(1):130-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.09.011.


Mood, motivation, attention, and arousal are behavioral states having a profound impact on cognition. Behavioral states are mediated though the peripheral nervous system and neuromodulatory systems in the brainstem. The noradrenergic nucleus locus coeruleus is activated in parallel with the autonomic system in response to biological imperatives. These responses can be spontaneous, to unexpected salient or threatening stimuli, or they can be conditioned responses to awaited behaviorally relevant stimuli. Noradrenaline, released in forebrain structures, will facilitate sensory processing, enhance cognitive flexibility and executive function in the frontal cortex, and promote offline memory consolidation in limbic structures. Central activation of neuromodulatory neurons and peripheral arousal, together, prepare the organism for a reorientation or reset of cortical networks and an adaptive behavioral response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology*