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Keywords:

  • attention;
  • executive functions;
  • frontal cortex;
  • learning;
  • NMDA

Abstract

Persistent suppression of N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor function produces enduring structural changes in neocortical and limbic regions in a pattern similar to changes reported in schizophrenia. This similarity suggests that chronic NMDA receptor antagonism in animals may represent a useful model of neurobiological and related cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is associated with impairments in frontal lobe-dependent cognitive functions, including working memory and attentional shifting. Deficits in attention and executive function have not been well characterized in animal models of schizophrenia using chronic NMDA receptor antagonist administration. We investigated whether subchronic systemic administration of the NMDA receptor antagonist phencyclidine (PCP) to rats followed by a drug washout period would produce enduring cognitive deficits on an attentional set-shifting task. The task is functionally analogous to a sensitive test of frontal function in humans and non-human primates. Subchronic PCP administration selectively impaired extradimensional shift learning without affecting other discrimination or reversal tasks. Moreover, acute treatment with the PDE10A inhibitor papaverine immediately prior to testing attenuated the PCP-induced deficits in extradimensional shift learning across a range of doses. These data suggest that subchronic PCP administration may model effectively some of the cognitive deficits that are observed in schizophrenia, and that PDE10A inhibition may be an effective therapeutic route to improve executive function deficits associated with schizophrenia.