Circulating norepinephrine and cerebrovascular control in conscious humans

D. S. Kimmerly, E. Tutungi, T. D. Wilson, J. M. Serrador, A. W. Gelb, R. L. Hughson, J. Kevin Shoemaker

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32 Scopus citations


Background: Cerebral vasoconstriction without concurrent changes in systemic arterial blood pressure has been observed in both normal individuals and those with idiopathic orthostatic intolerance following several minutes of postural stress when circulating catecholamines are elevated. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that α-adrenergic activation with and without elevated circulating norepinephrine (NE) directly affects cerebrovascular tone in healthy individuals. Methods: Mean arterial pressure (MAP; tonometry) and cerebral blood flow velocity (MFV) in the middle cerebral artery (transcranial Doppler) were measured in seven healthy individuals during 15 min periods of saline and of 50 (low NE) and 100 (high NE) ng kg-1 min-1 infusions of NE. Following this, phentolamine (PHO) was administered to return MAP back to baseline while high NE infusion continued (high NE + PHO). Finally, NE infusion was stopped allowing the persistent effects of PHO to dominate. Results: Circulating NE caused a dose-dependent increase in MAP (P<0.05). During combined high NE + PHO, blood pressure was initially reduced to baseline levels but then increased a second time (P<0.05) during the final ∼5 min of this phase. MFV remained constant during both low NE and high NE. In contrast, the secondary increase in BP during the late high NE + PHO phase was associated with elevated MFV. Cerebral vascular resistance (CVR) increased during high NE but was reduced to baseline during both early and late portions of the combined high NE + PHO phase (i.e. despite the late-phase increase in blood pressure). Conclusions: The increase in CVR during NE infusion was explained by an autoregulatory response to the increased blood pressure and not an α-mediated constriction. However, PHO appeared to interfere with the normal autoregulatory response to increasing blood pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)314-319
Number of pages6
JournalClinical Physiology and Functional Imaging
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Alpha-adrenergic receptors
  • Cerebral autoregulation
  • Cerebral blood flow
  • Phentolamine
  • Transcranial Doppler


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