Noradrenergic system

The findings in the noradrenergic system have not been as robust as the serotonergic findings, and it has been more difficult to correlate the neurochemistry with specific behaviours. There are fewer noradrenergic neurones arrayed at a lower density in the locus coeruleus of suicide victims, but no morphological anomalies. (13)

Interestingly, despite the reduction in cell number there is reported to be an increase in tyrosine hydroxylase, the rate-limiting enzyme of noradrenaline (norepinephrine) metabolism. This could indicate a highly active system depleting noradrenaline and compensating with accelerated biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter. This interpretation is supported by the findings of elevated noradrenaline and fewer a 1-adrenergic receptors in the cortex of suicide victims. Most studies also report an upregulation in a2-adrenergic autoreceptors, also believed to occur in response to depletion. (2)

While the findings in the noradrenergic system require further study, they point to a chronic stress response, which depletes noradrenaline. In this regard, the connection between chronic stress, depression, suicide, and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis warrants more study.

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