Previous research has demonstrated that the spinal cord is capable of a simple form of instrumental learning. Spinally transected rats that receive shock to a hind leg in an extended position quickly learn to maintain the leg in a flexed position, reducing net shock exposure whenever that leg is flexed. Subjects that receive shock independent of leg position (uncontrollable shock) do not exhibit an increase in flexion duration and later fail to learn when tested with controllable shock (learning deficit). The present study examined the role of the ionotropic glutamate receptor α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) in spinal learning. Intrathecal application of the AMPA receptor antagonist CNQX disrupted performance of a spinal instrumental learning in a dose dependent fashion (Experiment 1). CNQX also disrupted the maintenance of the instrumental response (Experiment 2) and blocked the induction of the learning deficit (Experiment 3). Intrathecal application of the agonist AMPA had a non-monotonic effect, producing a slight facilitation of performance at a low dose and disrupting learning at a high concentration (Experiment 4). Within the dose range tested, intrathecal application of AMPA did not have a long-term effect (Experiment 5). The results suggest that AMPA-mediated transmission plays an essential role in both instrumental learning and the induction of the learning deficit.HIGHLIGHTS
▸ We further examine the role of the glutamatergic system on instrumental learning.HIGHLIGHTS
▸ The role of the AMPA Receptor on instrumental learning is highlighted.HIGHLIGHTS
▸ Extends our hypothesis that the plasticity of the spinal cord can be saturated.