A Focus on Locus Coeruleus

Focus coeruleus area of the brain shown to play role in multiple sclerosis degeneration

(RxWiki News) Past research has shown that damage to a certain part of the brain is linked to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Now, researchers have found that damage to that same part of the brain is linked to multiple sclerosis (MS).

Researchers found that damage to a part of the brain called the locus coeruleus causes a decrease in levels of noradrenaline (the "flight or fight" chemical) in MS patients. Noradrenaline protects the brain from inflammation and stress to neurons (electrical cells that pass along information) - conditions related to MS. 

"Damage to a specific part of the brain may be responsible for MS."

Paul Polak, research specialist in the health sciences in anesthesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and lead author of the study, said drugs designed to increase noradrenaline in the brain may serve as a therapeutic intervention for multiple sclerosis patients based on the study, which suggests locus coeruleus damage may be a common feature of neurological diseases.

In Depth

Decreases in noradrenaline, the neurotransmitter involved in responsiveness and fear, has been well documented in cases of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, but this study marks the first time the hormone has been linked to MS. Noradrenaline also acts as an immunosuppressant in the brain, safeguarding against inflammation and stress to neurons while also preserving the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Researchers discovered damage to the locus coeruleus (a part of the brain stem involved with physiological responses to stress and panic) and reduced levels of noradrenaline in a mouse model of MS and similar changes in the brains of MS patients.

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Review Date: 
February 14, 2011