Abstract Pharmacological studies on neuroleptics and amphetamine strongly suggest that some dysfunction of the central catecholamine system may play a key role in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Our previous studies have demonstrated that intraventricular administration of 6-hydroxydopamine, a selective neurotoxin of the catecholamine neuron, can reproduce schizophrenia-like abnormalities in the skin conductance activity. In the present experiments, effects of pharmacological modulation of the central noradrenergic activity were studied in rats. Stimulation of the central noradrenergic activity by yohimbine (0.6 mg/kg, i.m.) slowed down the habituation of the skin conductance response (SCR) and increase the spontaneous fluctuation of the skin conductance (SF), while inhibition of the activity by clonidine (0.06 mg/kg, i.m.) accelerated or obliterated the SCR and decreased the SF frequency. If the functional significance of the central noradrenergic system lies in vigilance control, the present results are consostent with classical theory in psychophysiology: the habituation rate of SCR and the frequency of SF are correlated well with each other and both indices reflect arousal level. The disorder of the system should produce not only these psychophysiological abnormalities but also psychological disturbances; i.e., overarousal and underarousal syndromes. Therefore, the dysfunction of the noradrenergic system might constitute an essential aspect of schizophrenic disorder.