Catecholamine Measurement in Behavioral Research

  • Michael G. Ziegler
Part of the The Springer Series in Behavioral Psychophysiology and Medicine book series (SSBP)


The catecholamines norepinephrine (NE), epinephrine (E), and dopamine (DA) are released from nerves and the adrenal into blood, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), and urine. E is released from the adrenal medulla into the bloodstream where it acts as a hormone by stimulating α- and β-adrenergic receptors. Blood levels of E provide a good guide to adrenomedullary stimulation. A small increase in a resting subject’s blood E levels from a low normal of 20 pg/ml to a high normal of 80 pg/ml is sufficient to alter glucose metabolism. NE is also present in the adrenal, but most blood NE comes from sympathetic nerves. Blood levels of NE in the normal range for a resting, recumbent subject (150–500 pg/ml) have little physiologic effect, but blood levels of 1000 pg/ml cause subtle hemodynamic changes. NE has its major effect following release from sympathetic nerves across a synapse onto adjacent adrenergic receptors. A small fraction of this NE finds its way into the bloodstream. Blood levels of NE correlate with sympathetic nerve activity and double 5 min after one stands from a recumbent posture. Blood levels of the catecholamines are a potentially valuable guide to sympathetic nervous activity. Unfortunately, the use of catecholamine levels as a research tool has sometimes preceded adequate understanding of their chemistry or biology.


Circadian Rhythm Catecholamine Level Plasma Catecholamine Fusaric Acid Urinary Catecholamine 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael G. Ziegler
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of CaliforniaSan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.San Diego Medical CenterSan DiegoUSA

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