Denervation Supersensitivity

Part of the Handbook of Psychopharmacology book series (HBKPS, volume 2)


It has been known for many years that surgical denervation of either cholinergically or adrenergically innervated organs leads to an increase in the responsiveness of the effector organ to the corresponding neurotransmitter and to chemically related agonists. This phenomenon was observed initially for catecholamines in the radial muscle of the denervated pupil (Budge, 1855; Langendorff, 1900) and for acetylcholine in the striated muscle of the tongue (Philipeaux and Vulpian, 1863). Since these early observations, considerable work has been carried out in this field, not only in the peripheral nervous system but also, more recently, in the central nervous system. In 1949, Cannon and Rosenblueth published a monograph in which, among other things, they formulated their “law of denervation,” which states that surgical denervation causes supersensitivity of all the distal elements in the functional chain of neurons, including the effectors, to the action of chemical agents and nerve impulses. In addition, Cannon and Rosenblueth (1949) stated that denervation supersensitivity is greater for the links that immediately follow the cut neurons and that supersensitivity decreases progressively for the more distal elements.


Salivary Gland Nictitate Membrane Effector Organ Sympathetic Denervation Adrenergic Nerve 
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© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Instituto de Investigaciones FarmacológicasConsejo Nacional de InvestigacionesBuenos AiresArgentina

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