Prefrontal cortical GABAergic and NMDA glutamatergic regulation of delayed responding

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Abstract

NMDA glutamatergic and GABAergic transmission have both been implicated in regulating working memory functions mediated by the prefrontal cortex (PFC), and perturbations in these neurotransmitter systems have been proposed to underlie deficits in these functions observed in schizophrenia. Here, we examined the consequence of disrupting GABAergic or NMDA glutamatergic transmission within the medial PFC of rats on a delayed-response paradigm with translational relevance to working memory tasks used with humans. The operant delayed non-match to position task consisted of a sample phase (one lever extended) and a choice phase wherein rats were required to choose the opposite lever, separated by a variable delay (1–24 s). In well-trained rats, inactivation of the PFC via infusions of GABA agonists baclofen/muscimol (100 ng each) induced delay-independent deficits. Reducing PFC GABA transmission with the GABA-A receptor antagonist bicuculline (12.5–50 ng) also caused delay-independent impairments and increased trial omissions and response latencies during the sample and end-of-delay phases. On the other hand, non-selective blockade of PFC NMDA receptors with MK-801 (3–6 μg) disrupted performance, but these effects more closely resembled delay-dependent impairments. However, selective blockade of GluN2B-containing NMDA receptors with Ro-25-6981 (2.5 μg) did not affect any measures of performance. These results demonstrate that both intact PFC GABA and NMDA receptor signalling are integral for accurate delayed-responding, although they may differentially regulate encoding vs maintenance of information within working memory. Furthermore they suggest that perturbations of both of these neurochemical signals within the PFC may contribute differentially to impairments in working memory observed in schizophrenia.

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