Norepinephrine’s role in panic and anxiety is huge. So in the first post of a three part series, let’s bone-up.
Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter ultimately synthesized in the adrenal glands from the hormone and neurotransmitter, dopamine. By the way, the term noradrenaline is used primarily outside of the United States.
As a hormone, norepinephrine is released into the blood from the adrenal glands. As a neurotransmitter, it’s released from a grouping of neurons in the brain stem called the locus ceruleus.
From there it travels via neural connections to locations such as the cerebral cortex and limbic system in the brain, and the spinal cord.
We’ll refer to this norepinephrine highway as the noradrenergic neurotransmitter system. Noradrenergic simply means anything having to do with norepinephrine and its functioning.
As a neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, and the action of noradrenergic neurons at synapse, influences mood regulation, dreaming, sleep, alertness, arousal, and learning.
As a hormone, it impacts attention, impulsivity management, and is a huge player in how we respond to, and manage, stress. Norepinephrine, along with epinephrine (adrenaline), is released as a variety of major physiological changes are generated in the face of a stressor.
Under these circumstances norepinephrine has immediate and direct influence upon our fight/flight response, which in turn leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Increased heart activity, release of blood sugar from all stored supplies, and increased blood flow to the muscles ensues.
And all of this is designed to get us physically, mentally, and emotionally ready to manage, or escape from, an imminent threat.
Ah, but we’ve only set the table. The main course is yet to come.