Subtype-selective nicotinic agonists enhance olfactory working memory in normal rats: a novel use of the odour span task

Neurosci Lett. 2010 Mar 3;471(2):114-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2010.01.022. Epub 2010 Jan 18.


Nicotinic agonists have been shown to enhance performance in cognitive tasks based on attention and memory. The aim of this study was to use a test of olfactory working memory; the odour span task (OST) in rodents, to investigate the effects of subtype-specific nicotinic agonists on working memory in normal rats. Rats were trained in a non-matching to sample (NMTS) rule and then the full OST, which involved identifying a novel odour from an increasing number of presented odours. Male hooded Lister rats were treated with nicotine, selective nicotinic agonists or vehicle (saline). In order to validate the task, muscarinic and nicotinic receptor antagonists were also examined. Nicotine at both 0.05 and 0.1mg/kg significantly increased mean span length in the OST. The selective alpha 4 beta 2 nicotinic receptor agonist metanicotine (0.1mg/kg s.c.) and the selective alpha 7 nicotinic receptor agonist (R)-N-(1-azabicyclo[2.2.2]oct-3-yl)(5-(2-pyridyl)thiophene-2-carboxamide) (compound A, 10mg/kg i.p.) also improved performance. In contrast, mecamylamine and scopolamine significantly decreased mean span length. These findings suggest a role for the activation of both alpha 4 beta 2 and alpha 7 subtypes of neuronal nicotinic receptor in mediating enhancements of olfactory working memory capacity in normal, non-compromised rats. These nicotinic receptor subtypes may therefore prove to be useful targets for the development of novel treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders that involve cognitive dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Azabicyclo Compounds / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mecamylamine / pharmacology
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Nicotine / analogs & derivatives
  • Nicotine / pharmacology
  • Nicotinic Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Nicotinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Odorants*
  • Olfactory Perception*
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Nicotinic / physiology*
  • Scopolamine / pharmacology
  • Thiophenes / pharmacology
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor


  • Azabicyclo Compounds
  • Chrna7 protein, rat
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • N-(1-azabicyclo(2.2.2)oct-3-yl)(5-(2-pyridyl)thiophene-2-carboxamide)
  • Nicotinic Agonists
  • Nicotinic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Nicotinic
  • Thiophenes
  • alpha7 Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor
  • nicotinic receptor alpha2beta2, rat
  • metanicotine
  • Mecamylamine
  • Nicotine
  • Scopolamine