Chronic treatment with the serotonin 2A/2C receptor antagonist SR 46349B enhances the retention and efficiency of rule-guided behavior in mice

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Animal studies have established that drugs activating the serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor can enhance learning and memory in a variety of classical and operant conditioning tasks. Unfortunately, long-term agonism typically results in receptor downregulation, which can negate such nootropic effects. Conversely, chronic antagonism can act to increase receptor density, an adaptation which, in principle, should enhance cognition in a manner similar to acute agonism. In this study, we questioned whether chronic treatment with the 5-HT2A receptor antagonist, SR 46349B, a drug known to increase 5-HT2A receptor density in vivo, would improve cognitive performance in normal mice. To address this question, we administered SR 46349B to mice for 4 days following initial training on a simple rule-based reward acquisition task. We subsequently tested their recall of this task and, finally, their ability to adapt to a reversal in reward contingency (reversal learning). For comparison, two additional groups were treated with the 5-HT2A/2C receptor agonist, DOI, which downregulates the 5-HT2A receptor. SR 46349B improved retention of the previously-learned task but did not affect reversal learning. Subjects treated with SR 46349B also completed trials faster and with greater motor efficiency than vehicle- or DOI-treated subjects. We hypothesize that long-term drug treatments resulting in 5-HT2A receptor up-regulation may be useful in enhancing recall of learned behaviors and, thus, may have potential for treating cognitive impairment associated with neurodegenerative disorders.

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