5-HT2A receptors in the orbitofrontal cortex facilitate reversal learning and contribute to the beneficial cognitive effects of chronic citalopram treatment in rats

Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2012 Oct;15(9):1295-305. doi: 10.1017/S1461145711001441. Epub 2011 Oct 19.


Chronic stress is a risk factor for depression, and chronic stress can induce cognitive impairments associated with prefrontal cortical dysfunction, which are also major components of depression. We have previously shown that 5 wk chronic intermittent cold (CIC) stress induced a reversal-learning deficit in rats, associated with reduced serotonergic transmission in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) that was restored by chronic treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). However, the mechanisms underlying the beneficial cognitive effects of chronic SSRI treatment are currently unknown. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the potential modulatory influence specifically of 5-HT2A receptors (5-HT2ARs) in the OFC on reversal learning, and their potential contribution to the beneficial cognitive effects of chronic SSRI treatment. Bilateral microinjections of the selective 5-HT2AR antagonist, MDL 100,907 into OFC (0.02-2.0 nmol) had a dose-dependent detrimental effect on a reversal-learning task, suggesting a facilitatory influence of 5-HT2ARs in the OFC. In the next experiment, rats were exposed to 5 wk CIC stress, which compromised reversal learning, and treated chronically with the SSRI, citalopram (20 mg/kg.d) during the final 3 wk of chronic stress. Chronic citalopram treatment improved reversal learning in the CIC-stressed rats, and bilateral microinjection of MDL 100,907 (0.20 nmol, the optimal dose from the preceding experiment) into OFC once again had a detrimental effect on reversal learning, opposing the beneficial effect of citalopram. We conclude that 5-HT2ARs in the OFC facilitate reversal learning, and potentially contribute to the beneficial cognitive effects of chronic SSRI treatment.

MeSH terms

  • 2-Hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin
  • Animals
  • Attention / drug effects
  • Chronic Disease
  • Citalopram / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Fluorobenzenes / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Microinjections
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / drug effects
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A / metabolism*
  • Reversal Learning / drug effects*
  • Serotonin Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Set, Psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • beta-Cyclodextrins


  • Fluorobenzenes
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Piperidines
  • Receptor, Serotonin, 5-HT2A
  • Serotonin Antagonists
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • beta-Cyclodextrins
  • Citalopram
  • 2-Hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin
  • volinanserin