Acute and repeated effects of three organophosphorus pesticides on the acquisition and retention of an instrumental learning task in rats

Neurotox Res. 2008 May-Jun;13(3-4):253-63. doi: 10.1007/BF03033509.


The effects of organophosphorus pesticides on higher functions of the central nervous system are not well understood yet. As a first approach, the acute and repeated effects of three organophosphorus pesticides on learning and memory capabilities of behaving adult rats were studied here. Prior to training, animals received acute or repeated (5-day, 15-day, and 30-day) doses of diazinon, malathion, or fenitrothion. Animals were trained with an operant conditioning test, using a fixed-interval (FI 2 min) paradigm. Fifteen days later, animals were tested for retention of the learned task. Specific modifications in some selected behavioral displays were also quantified across the training process. Although their motor behaviors were not affected, treated animals required longer times for the acquisition of the fixed-interval test than did controls. As opposed to controls, not all (45.8% for diazinon, 66.6% for malathion, and 62.5% for fenitrothion) treated animals reached criterion during the retention test. Specific behaviors, such as grooming, rearing, exploratory whisking, and freezing, were modified at different levels by some (or all) of the three organophosphorus pesticides. According to these results, the three organophosphorus pesticides used here affected the acquisition and, mainly, the retention of instrumental conditioning, using a fixed-interval paradigm. The presentation of some specific behavioral displays was also modified in treated animals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Diazinon / toxicity
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Fenitrothion / toxicity
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Malathion / toxicity
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Retention, Psychology / drug effects*
  • Time Factors


  • Insecticides
  • Malathion
  • Fenitrothion
  • Diazinon