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Friday, March 5, 2010

What is the role of the locus coeruleus in stress?

The locus coeruleus has many connections to other parts of the brain, particularly areas that bring in and process sensory information (information from sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch). The locus coeruleus secretes norepinephrine and stimulates other brain centers to do the same. It is like the pacemaker (meaning it controls the tempo) of the brain. Thus, it increases arousal (heightened awareness, alertness) and vigilance (watchfulness, carefulness), and adjusts (modulates) the action of the autonomic nervous system, which includes the SNS. The autonomic nervous system regulates blood flow, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing (respiration). It can also temporarily shut down the gastrointestinal (GI) and sexual systems until the crisis is over. These initial reactions, to get our blood flowing, heart pumping, and muscles energized, occur very quickly and automatically.





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