The Role of Locus Coeruleus in the Regulation of Cognitive Performance

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Science  22 Jan 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5401, pp. 549-554
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5401.549

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Noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) neurons were recorded in monkeys performing a visual discrimination task, and a computational model was developed addressing the role of the LC brain system in cognitive performance. Changes in spontaneous and stimulus-induced patterns of LC activity correlated closely with fluctuations in behavioral performance. The model explains these fluctuations in terms of changes in electrotonic coupling among LC neurons and predicts improved performance during epochs of high coupling and synchronized LC firing. Cross correlations of simultaneously recorded LC neurons confirmed this prediction, indicating that electrotonic coupling in LC may play an important role in attentional modulation and the regulation of goal-directed versus exploratory behaviors.

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