The effects of agonists of ionotropic GABA(A) and metabotropic GABA(B) receptors on learning

Span J Psychol. 2009 May;12(1):12-20. doi: 10.1017/s1138741600001438.


The research described here investigates the role played by inhibitory processes in the discriminations made by the nervous system of humans and animals between familiar and unfamiliar and significant and nonsignificant events. This research compared the effects of two inhibitory mediators of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): 1) phenibut, a nonselective agonist of ionotropic GABA(A) and metabotropic GABA(B) receptors and 2) gaboxadol a selective agonist of ionotropic GABA(A) receptors on the process of developing active defensive and inhibitory conditioned reflexes in alert non-immobilized rabbits. It was found that phenibut, but not gaboxadol, accelerates the development of defensive reflexes at an early stage of conditioning. Both phenibut and gaboxadol facilitate the development of conditioned inhibition, but the effect of gaboxadol occurs at later stages of conditioning and is less stable than that of phenibut. The earlier and more stable effects of phenibut, as compared to gaboxadol, on storage in memory of the inhibitory significance of a stimulus may occur because GABA(B) receptors play the dominant role in the development of internal inhibition during an early stage of conditioning. On the other hand this may occur because the participation of both GABA(A) and GABA(B) receptors are essential to the process. We discuss the polyfunctionality of GABA receptors as a function of their structure and the positions of the relevant neurons in the brain as this factor can affect regulation of various types of psychological processes.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Electroshock
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology*
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacology
  • Isoxazoles / pharmacology*
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Learning / physiology
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rabbits
  • Receptors, GABA-B / drug effects*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / analogs & derivatives*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / pharmacology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Anesthetics
  • GABA Agonists
  • GABA-A Receptor Agonists
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Isoxazoles
  • Receptors, GABA-B
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • gaboxadol
  • 4-amino-3-phenylbutyric acid