Catecholamines and attention I: Animal and clinical studies

C. R. Clark, G. M. Geffen, L. B. Geffen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    118 Citations (Scopus)


    One important function of the catecholamine innervation of the cerebral cortex may be the control of attention. Of particular interest are the catecholamine projections to the cerebral cortex from the reticular formation, namely the dopamine neurons of the ventral tegmentum of the midbrain and the noradrenergic neurons of the locus coeruleus in the upper pons. Animal studies implicate noradrenaline and dopamine in a wide range of attention-related behaviours involving search and exploratory activity, distractibility, response rate, discriminability and the switching of attention. Most human studies come from the clinical literature relating to schizophrenia, Parkinson's disease and attention deficit disorder. An association has been claimed in each of these conditions between abnormal catecholamine activity (in particular dopamine) and attentional dysfunction. In particular, difficulty with the attachment of appropriate responses to environmental stimuli, akin to those observed in animals with lesions to central dopamine pathways, indicates a role for dopamine in response selection processes. Overall, the animal and human studies reviewed indicate a role for central noradrenaline and dopamine in the early and late processing of information, respectively.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)341-352
    Number of pages12
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1987


    • Attention
    • Catecholamines
    • Dopamine
    • Human information processing
    • Noradrenaline
    • Response processing
    • Stimulus processing


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