Repetitive mild traumatic brain injury impairs norepinephrine system function and psychostimulant responsivity

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a complex pathophysiological process that results in a variety of neurotransmitter, behavioral, and cognitive deficits. The locus coeruleus-norepinephrine (LC-NE) system is a critical regulator of arousal levels and higher executive processes affected by TBI including attention, working memory, and decision making. LC-NE axon injury and impaired signaling within the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is a potential contributor to the neuropsychiatric symptoms after single, moderate to severe TBI. The majority of TBIs are mild, yet long-term cognitive deficits and increased susceptibility for further injury can accumulate after each repetitive mild TBI. As a potential treatment for restoring cognitive function and daytime sleepiness after injury psychostimulants, including methylphenidate (MPH) that increase levels of NE within the PFC, are being prescribed “off-label”. The impact of mild and repetitive mild TBI on the LC-NE system remains limited. Therefore, we determined the extent of LC-NE and arousal dysfunction and response to therapeutic doses of MPH in rats following experimentally induced single and repetitive mild TBI. Microdialysis measures of basal NE efflux from the medial PFC and arousal measures were significantly lower after repetitive mild TBI. Females showed higher baseline PFC-NE efflux than males following single and repetitive mild TBI. In response to MPH challenge, males exhibited a blunted PFC-NE response and persistent arousal levels following repetitive mild TBI. These results provide critical insight into the role of catecholamine system dysfunction associated with cognitive deficits following repeated injury, outcome differences between sex/gender, and lack of success of MPH as an adjunctive therapy to improve cognitive function following injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number149040
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Sep 15 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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