Plasma Catecholamines

The three catecholamines, when found intact in plasma, do not come from the brain because they cannot cross the blood-brain barrier; however, their metabolites can. Thus, metabolites in plasma originate both in brain and in peripheral tissues. Study of these metabolites has provided insight into the role that catecholamines play in behavior. However, direct study of catecholamines in living human brain tissue has not been possible. Fortunately, imaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance imaging, and single positron emission computerized tomography open up possibilities for visualizing catecholaminergic function in live conscious human subjects during waking hours. In addition, some of these imaging techniques can quantify neurotransmitter receptors and identify concentration differences at the synaptic level following psychopharmacologic administration. A variety of methods are available for measuring catecholamines in plasma.

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