Mirtazapine exerts an anxiolytic-like effect through activation of the median raphe nucleus-dorsal hippocampal 5-HT pathway in contextual fear conditioning in rats

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The functional role of serotonergic projections from the median raphe nucleus (MRN) to the dorsal hippocampus (DH) in anxiety remains understood poorly. The purpose of the present research was to examine the functional role of this pathway, using the contextual fear conditioning (CFC) model of anxiety. We show that intra-MRN microinjection of mirtazapine, a noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant, reduced freezing in CFC without affecting general motor activity dose-dependently, suggesting an anxiolytic-like effect. In addition, intra-MRN microinjection of mirtazapine dose-dependently increased extracellular concentrations of serotonin (5-HT) but not dopamine in the DH. Importantly, intra-DH pre-microinjection of WAY-100635, a 5-HT1A antagonist, significantly attenuated the effect of mirtazapine on freezing. These results, for the first time, suggest that activation of the MRN-DH 5-HT1A pathway exerts an anxiolytic-like effect in CFC. This is consistent with the literature that the hippocampus is essential for retrieval of contextual memory and that 5-HT1A receptor activation in the hippocampus primarily exerts an inhibitory effect on the neuronal activity.

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