Relationships between catecholamine or 3-methoxy 4-hydroxy phenylglycol changes and the mental performance under submaximal exercise in man

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1987;93(2):188-92. doi: 10.1007/BF00179932.


Eleven young students were tested to determine the relationship between the improvement of mental performances observed under prolonged submaximal work and central or peripheral catecholamine changes. The subjects pedaled a bicycle ergometer for 1 h at a work load individually calculated to approximate 75% of maximal oxygen uptake. The mental test, consisting of 1-h sessions of time-limited word tests and arithmetical calculations, required a high degree of concentration (vigilance and short-term memory). Catecholamines [epinephrine (E), norepinephrine (NE), dopamine (DA)], metanephrine (MN), normetanephrine (NMN) and the glucuronide conjugate of 3-methoxy 4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) were assayed in urine to assess peripheral activity: E and MN as indexes of adrenomedullary secretion, NE, NMN and MHPG glucuronide as markers of NE metabolism in sympathetic nerves. Urinary MHPG sulfate was determined as a possible marker of central noradrenergic metabolism. When compared to the effect of single tests, the combination of prolonged submaximal work and mental task induced significant increases in MHPG sulfate and E + MN excretions. Both these increases were correlated each to one another and also correlated to the number of discriminated words. Altogether, the present data show that prolonged submaximal work under mental load activates catecholamine systems and suggest that a relationship exists between adrenomedullary activation and the improvement of mental performance. Based on literature data, the possible modulatory role of peripheral E on mental processes and central noradrenergic activity is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Catecholamines / urine*
  • Cognition* / physiology
  • Glycols / urine*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol / urine*
  • Physical Exertion*


  • Catecholamines
  • Glycols
  • Methoxyhydroxyphenylglycol