Letter | Published:

Changes in Adrenal Enzymes synthesizing Catecholamines in Attack Behaviour evoked by Hypothalamic Stimulation in the Cat

Abstract

IN the cat, electrical stimulation1,2 or selective lesions of the brain3 can evoke an affected display of anger, called sham rage3. This emotional display is often coupled with directed prey killing or attack behaviour2. Associated with this is a widespread activation of the sympathetic nervous system and a release of the catecholamines, noradrenaline and adrenaline, from the adrenal gland4,5. It was recently demonstrated that, when prolonged, increased neural release of adrenal catecholamines is associated with increased activity of tyrosine hydroxylase6,7, the enzyme of the rate-limiting step in catecholamine biosynthesis8. The increase in enzyme activity is presumably the result of production of new enzyme6,9. We have sought to determine whether the induction of attack behaviour in the cat by electrical stimulation of the hypothalamus, if sustained over several days, can lead to similar changes in adrenal tyrosine hydroxylase and also the adrenal enzyme phenylethenol amine-N-methyl transferase (PNMT) which converts norepinephrine to epinephrine.

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