Rationale: Schizophrenia has been linked to dysregulation of dopamine and glutamate transmitter systems. Attempts to model aspects of schizophrenia in animals have made use of treatments that primarily affect dopaminergic (e.g., amphetamine, Amp) and glutamatergic (e.g., phencyclidine, PCP) function. In addition to exerting short-term acute effects, these agents also induce long-term effects, as seen, for example, in neurochemical and behavioural sensitization.
Objectives: The goal of this work was to compare Amp- and PCP-sensitized states on two measures of information processing that are impaired in schizophrenia, prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle reflex and latent inhibition (LI).
Methods: Rats received injections of Amp, PCP or saline 3 days per week for 3 weeks. The Amp dose increased from 1 to 3 mg/kg, at the rate of 1 mg/kg each week. The PCP dose was 3 mg/kg throughout. After various periods of withdrawal rats were tested for PPI and LI.
Results: Repeated intermittent treatment with Amp or PCP resulted in augmented locomotor responses to challenge with each drug, providing an operational index that sensitization had occurred. Rats sensitized to Amp showed disrupted PPI when tested drug free at 3, 21 and 60 days of withdrawal. Amp-sensitized rats also showed abolition of the LI effect. Rats sensitized to PCP did not show deficits in any of these behaviours when tested drug free.
Conclusions: Because disrupted PPI and LI have both been reported in schizophrenic patients, these results suggest that the Amp-sensitized state may represent a useful model for investigating the neural bases of information processing deficits in schizophrenia.