Acute and Chronic Noradrenergic Effects on Cortical Excitability in Healthy Humans

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2017 Aug 1;20(8):634-643. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyx026.


Background: Noradrenaline is a major neuromodulator in the central nervous system, and it is involved in the pathophysiology of diverse neuropsychiatric diseases. Previous transcranial magnetic stimulation studies suggested that acute application of selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors enhances cortical excitability in the human brain. However, other, such like clinical effects, usually require prolonged noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor treatment, which might go along with different physiological effects.

Methods: The purpose of this study was to investigate the acute and chronic effects of the selective noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor reboxetine on cortical excitability in healthy humans in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized crossover study. Sixteen subjects were assessed with different transcranial magnetic stimulation measurements: motor thresholds, input-output curve, short-latency intracortical inhibition and intracortical facilitation, I-wave facilitation, and short-interval afferent inhibition before and after placebo or reboxetine (8 mg) single-dose administration. Afterwards, the same subjects took reboxetine (8 mg/d) consecutively for 21 days. During this period (subjects underwent 2 experimental sessions with identical transcranial magnetic stimulation measures under placebo or reboxetine), transcranial magnetic stimulation measurements were assessed before and after drug intake.

Results: Both single-dose and chronic administration of reboxetine increased cortical excitability; increased the slope of the input-output curve, intracortical facilitation, and I-wave facilitation; but decreased short-latency intracortical inhibition and short-interval afferent inhibition. Moreover, chronic reboxetine showed a larger enhancement of intracortical facilitation and I-wave facilitation compared with single-dose application.

Conclusions: The results show physiological mechanisms of noradrenergic enhancement possibly underlying the functional effects of reboxetine regarding acute and chronic application.

Keywords: cortical excitability; noradrenaline; reboxetine; transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor / drug effects
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hand
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morpholines / administration & dosage*
  • Motor Cortex / drug effects*
  • Motor Cortex / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Reboxetine
  • Time Factors
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult


  • Adrenergic Uptake Inhibitors
  • Morpholines
  • Reboxetine