What are catecholamines in PTSD?

Catecholamines are a group of neurotransmitters that include dopamine, norepinephrine, also called noradrenaline, and epinephrine, also called adrenaline. The sympathetic nervous system stimulates the release of catecholamines to mediate adaptive responses to acute stress. Catecholamines are also linked to long-term memory of events that induce strong emotions, including fear. Stress-responsive neurotransmitters released during emotional arousal are thought to enhance the consolidation of fear memory. Hyperresponsiveness in the dopaminergic system is common in individuals who have been exposed to stress, which was associated with PTSD symptoms such as restlessness, nightmares, fear memory, and impulsivity. Over activation of noradrenaline receptors could be associated with the flashbacks, and nightmares frequently experienced by those with persistence of PTSD symptoms.

What is the evidence for changes in catecholamines in people with PTSD?

Moderate to high quality evidence found a small increase in plasma or urinary norepinephrine levels in people with PTSD, with no differences in epinephrine or dopamine levels compared to controls without PTSD. Containing the epinephrine analysis to urine samples showed increased epinephrine in people with PTSD compared to controls.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 6:07 pm, 9th December 2021
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