Norepinephrine’s Effects on the Cerebellum and Role in Tremor

Principal Investigator: Dr. Esther Krook-Magnuson, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis

Propranolol is a beta-blocker and is the most widely used medication for the treatment of essential tremor. Dr. Krook-Magnuson believes propranolol’s actions are centrally located, working on a region of the brain known as the cerebellum, and slowing the amount of norepinephrine released.  Norepinephrine is a neurotransmitter. Think of it as a city bus that moves information from the brain to various locations/stops in the body.  Propranolol slows the bus down during its travels, helping keep your hands more steady. But Dr. Krook-Magnuson thinks that if we can influence our norepinephrine bus is where it is built, in the nuclei of the brain known as the locus coeruleus, rather than when it’s cruising through the body, it will reduce tremor.

Further, she believes the effects of norepinephrine on tremor depend on the dose — specifically, she believes it will have bidirectional effects. In other words, the levels of norepinephrine introduced at the factory could cause our norepinephrine bus to come flying out of the gate like a bullet train or slowly head out at more of a model-T pace. Either way, the findings from this proposal would resolve the controversy surrounding propranolol’s location of action in the brain and provide new options to help reduce tremor.