Organization of the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system

Curr Biol. 2015 Nov 2;25(21):R1051-R1056. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.09.039.


The release of the neurotransmitter norepinephrine throughout the mammalian brain is important for modulating attention, arousal, and cognition during many behaviors. Furthermore, disruption of norepinephrine-mediated signaling is strongly associated with several psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders in humans, emphasizing the clinical importance of this system. Most of the norepinephrine released in the brain is supplied by a very small, bilateral nucleus in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus. The goal of this minireview is to emphasize the complexity of the locus coeruleus beyond its primary definition as a norepinephrine-producing nucleus. Several recent studies utilizing innovative technologies highlight how the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system can now be targeted with increased accuracy and resolution, in order to better understand its role in modulating diverse behaviors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Stem / metabolism
  • Cognition
  • Humans
  • Locus Coeruleus / metabolism
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology*
  • Norepinephrine / metabolism
  • Norepinephrine / physiology*


  • Norepinephrine