Noradrenaline and its relationship with depression and ADHD

Noradrenaline and its relationship with depression and ADHD

Noradrenaline, also called Norepinephrine It is a hormonal neurotransmitter. It is part of catecholamines, a group of substances that include the adrenalin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which are synthesized from the amino acid tyrosine.


  • 1 What is Norepinephrine or Norepinephrine?
  • 2 Noradrenaline secretion
  • 3 Noradrenaline Function
  • 4 Norepinephrine and depression
  • 5 Noradrenaline and ADHD

What is Norepinephrine or Norepinephrine?

Norepinephrine is a chemical released by the sympathetic nervous system in response to stress. Is a neurotransmitter released by nerve cells and their chemical structure, as well as their function, is similar to that of the adrenalin.

Noradrenaline secretion

Norepinephrine is released through the Kidney glands, two structures the size of a nut that are in the upper part of the kidneys.

The inner layer of the adrenal glands secretes norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline). These two stress hormones are released in different amounts in response to sudden stress factors, increasing blood pressure and blood sugar, and sending more energy to the muscles to help prepare to fight or flee from danger.

Noradrenaline Function

When this hormone is released, increases heart rate and blood pressure. It also produces pupillary dilation and helps improve the passage of air into the lungs. Norepinephrine prevents narrowing of blood vessels in visceral organs. This allows the body to function well in stressful situations. It stimulates a type of receptor known as alphareceptors, which cause muscle contraction and narrowing of the blood vessels in these areas. Due to the narrowing of the blood vessels in the periphery, blood is redirected to vital organs such as the heart and brain.

The purpose of stress hormones is to prepare your brain and body to face an emergency that threatens physical life. However, in the modern world, most of us react to stress factors constantly and few of them are real physical danger events. Unfortunately, the body's excitation system cannot distinguish whether it is chased by a wild animal or if it is suffering from factors such as road traffic, crowds, noise, a 50-hour work week or constant demand. of attention by our electronic devices.

When we are under a constant stress, our adrenal glands never stop pumping stress hormones (adrenaline and norepinephrine) and this generates deep effects on our physical and mental health.

Stress contributes to anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, heart disease, sleeping problems, weight gain and cognitive impairment. It reduces the function of the immune system and increases our risk for cancer and psychiatric disorders. Chronic stress can cause the adrenal glands to meet all hormonal demand cause a wide variety of secondary symptoms such as:

  • Headache
  • Hypertension
  • Sleeping problems
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bad mood
  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Palpitations or arrhythmias

Norepinephrine and depression

Since the main objective of norepinephrine is to achieve that in a state of greater excitement, it is not surprising that the lack of this hormone has the opposite effect. A low level of norepinephrine can make us feel tired, mentally fatigued, cloudy, in a bad mood and with little interest in life.

Usually depression is associated with low levels of serotonin neurotransmitter. This is the reason why most prescribed medications for depression they are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These medications work by increasing brain serotonin levels. Although the most frustrating and disconcerting thing for doctors and patients alike, is that they work well in less than half of the cases. One answer may be in the fact that, for some, the depression It is caused by low norepinephrine, not serotonin.

This idea is not new. In the 1960s, Harvard University psychiatrist Joseph J. Schildkraut proposed that the lack of norepinephrine instead of serotonin was the cause of depression. This is called the "Catecholamine theory of mood disorders." He also proposed that the mania experienced during an episode of Bipolar disorder, it is due to an excess of norepinephrine.

Currently some of the new antidepressants They direct their action towards norepinephrine.

Noradrenaline and ADHD

He currently believes that there are three subtypes of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder):

  1. Attention deficit predominance disorder
  2. Prevalence disorder of hyperactivity and impulsivity
  3. Combined disorder (significant problems from both neglect and hyperactivity-impulsivity)

An explanation for the three subtypes of ADHD is that patients have different neurotransmitter imbalances. This theory can be justified by the fact that no ADHD medication works well in all patients.

Each subtype of ADHD is more likely to respond to a different class of medication. People with attention deficit predominance disorder are believed to have lower levels of norepinephrine. Most people with ADHD who take drugs are usually stimulants such as Ritalin or Adderall, which increase dopamine levels, but people with a low norepinephrine level work best with non-stimulant medications such as Strattera.

Increase Norepinephrine levels with food and supplements

There are two simple ways to increase norepinephrine in the body, and they are diet and supplements.

Amino acid tyrosine It is the precursor of norepinephrine. It is found in many common foods especially those rich in protein, both animal and vegetable. Meat, dairy products, fish, chicken and legumes are good sources of tyrosine. Other foods that promote norepinephrine synthesis are apples, bananas, beets, watermelon and wheat germ.

Norepinephrine supplements cannot be taken as they cannot cross the blood brain barrier, and therefore cannot act on the brain. But instead you can take tyrosine supplements. A tyrosine supplement is a good natural option to consider if you have depression.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, "Taking tyrosine on an empty stomach causes an increase in norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, which can lead to increased energy, alertness and improved mood, thus relieving depressive symptoms in a way fast Unlike the Grass of San Juan, an herbal remedy that can take two months to take effect and the usual antidepressants, which probably won't work until after about six weeks, the tyrosine works very quickly".

Another supplement to consider is the Arctic Root (Rhodiola Rosea). It is one of the few dozen herbs that meet the criteria of an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbal remedies that are neither stimulating nor relaxing. Instead, they work by increasing overall resistance to stress and bring the body into a state of functional balance known as homeostasis. Arctic root increases the activity of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. It is especially good for combating fatigue, so it is a useful supplement for anyone with fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.


Bloom, F.E. i Lazerson, A. (1988). Brain, Mind, and Behavior. Nova York: Freeman and Company.

Bradford, H.F. (1988). Fundamentals of neurochemistry. Barcelona: Labor.

Carlson, N.R. (1999). Behavioral physiology. Barcelona: Ariel Psychology.

Carpenter, M.B. (1994). Neuroanatomy Fundamentals Buenos Aires: Panamerican Editorial.

From April, A .; Ambrose, E .; De Blas, M.R .; Caminero, A .; From Pablo, J.M. i Sandoval, E. (eds) (1999). Biological basis of behavior. Madrid: Sanz and Torres.

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