5-HT6 receptor agonist EMD386088 impairs behavioral flexibility and working memory

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Abstract

Serotonin 6 (5-HT6) receptors are primarily expressed in the central nervous system and to an even further extent brain regions responsible for learning and memory. Recent studies have demonstrated 5-HT6 receptor involvement in pathophysiological processes highlighting their therapeutic possibilities. Most research concerning the effects of 5-HT6 receptor modulation has focused on blockade despite paradoxical findings that 5-HT6 agonists and antagonists can both have pro-cognitive effects. The current experiments examine the effects of the 5-HT6 receptor agonist EMD386088 on behavioral flexibility and working memory. C57BL/6J mice received systemic injections of either 0, 2, or 4 mg/kg EMD386088 before being tested on probabilistic reversal learning, spontaneous alternation, and locomotor activity. In the probabilistic reversal learning task, the high dose of 4 mg/kg significantly impaired performance requiring more trials to reach criterion. The same dose significantly increased perseverative type errors, suggesting that the probabilistic reversal learning impairment was due to an inability to inhibit the previously learned choice pattern, rather than maintaining the new optimal choice pattern. Acute EMD386088 administration at 2 mg/kg significantly impaired spontaneous alternation performance, while the high dose of 4 mg/kg did not reach significance. These learning impairments were not due to an overall locomotor impairment as evidenced by comparable locomotor activity scores. Acute systemic 5-HT6 receptor activation with EMD386088 led to impaired behavior flexibility and working memory performance. Current findings support previous research suggesting that novel therapeutics directed at down regulation of 5-HT6 receptors may be effective in attenuating working memory and behavioral flexibility impairments commonly found in neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

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