Repeated application of Modafinil and Levodopa reveals a drug-independent precise timing of spatial working memory modulation

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Cognition enhancing drugs often target the dopaminergic system, which is involved in learning and memory, including working memory that in turn involves mainly the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. In most animal models for modulations of working memory animals are pre-trained to a certain criterion and treated then acutely to test drugs effects on working memory. Thus, little is known regarding subchronic or chronic application of cognition enhancing drugs and working memory performance. Therefore we trained male rats over six days in a rewarded alternation test in a T-maze. Rats received daily injections of either modafinil or Levodopa (L-Dopa) at a lower and a higher dose 30 min before training. Levodopa but not modafinil increased working memory performance during early training significantly at day 3 when compared to vehicle controls. Both drugs induced dose dependent differences in working memory with significantly better performance at low doses compared to high doses for modafinil, in contrast to L-Dopa where high dose treated rats performed better than low dose rats. Strikingly, these effects appeared only at day 3 for both drugs, followed by a decline in behavioral performance. Thus, a critical drug independent time window for dopaminergic effects upon working memory could be revealed. Evaluating the underlying mechanisms contributes to the understanding of temporal effects of dopamine on working memory performance.

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