Effects of the GluN2B-NMDA receptor antagonist Ro 25-6981 on two types of behavioral flexibility in rats

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Abstract

Recent evidence has implicated N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) in several aspects of learning and behavioral flexibility in rodents. Here, we examined the effects of treatment with Ro 25-6981, a selective antagonist of NMDARs containing GluN2B subunits, on two types of behavioral flexibility in rats, spatial reversal learning and set-shifting (spatial vs. motor strategy). To examine spatial reversal learning, rats were trained to swim to a hidden platform in a water maze over four days. On the following day, the platform was moved to a new location in the maze. Administration of Ro 25-6981 (10 mg/kg) selectively impaired the early phase of reversal learning, but all rats learned to navigate to the new platform location over 12 trials. To examine set-shifting, independent groups of rats were trained to either swim to a fixed location (spatial strategy) or use a motor response (e.g., “turn left”; motor strategy) to find a hidden escape platform in a cross-shaped water maze apparatus; after task acquisition, rats were trained on the second, novel strategy (set-shift) following treatment with either Ro 25-6981 (10 mg/kg) or saline. Administration of Ro 25-6981 had no effect on the ability of rats to perform the set-shift and use the new strategy to locate the escape platform. These results suggest that, in rats, spatial reversal learning, but not set-shifting, is sensitive to Ro-25-6981 treatment. Thus, NMDARs-GluN2B signaling may play a selective role in some forms of behavioral plasticity, particularly for situations involving the updating of information in the spatial domain.

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