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March 1965

Sedative-like Effect of Epinephrine: A Review

Author Affiliations

State University of New York, Upstate Medical Center. Resident and Assistant Instructor, Department of Psychiatry, 1964; Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Resident in Psychiatry; and Harvard Medical School, Teaching Fellow in Psychiatry, 1963-1964.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1965;12(3):255-259. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1965.01720330029005

WHEN HEN FELDBERG and Sherwood demonstrated that intraventricular injections of epinephrine (Adrenaline) in dogs caused "sedative-like" behavioral depression, they suggested that epinephrine secretion during anxiety in humans might cause analogous symptoms of fatigue and somnolence.18 Little or no attention was subsequently given this hypothesis; Feldberg himself did not mention it in his recent (1963) book about the pharmacology of the brain.17 The hypothesis has received little attention for two reasons: first, there has been little evidence that systemic epinephrine could reach the brain, and second, there has been little or no evidence that systemically administered epinephrine could produce sedative-like or fatiguelike effects.

Both these objections have been modified by recent experimental findings. First, radioactively tagged epinephrine has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier in the region of the hypothalamus during sustained systemic infusions,1,45 and second, epinephrine