Blockade of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors facilitates motivated behaviour and rescues a model of antipsychotic-induced amotivation

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2019 May;44(6):1068-1075. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0281-8. Epub 2018 Nov 27.


Disruptions to motivated behaviour are a highly prevalent and severe symptom in a number of neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. Current treatment options for these disorders have little or no effect upon motivational impairments. We assessed the contribution of muscarinic acetylcholine receptors to motivated behaviour in mice, as a novel pharmacological target for motivational impairments. Touchscreen progressive ratio (PR) performance was facilitated by the nonselective muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine as well as the more subtype-selective antagonists biperiden (M1) and tropicamide (M4). However, scopolamine and tropicamide also produced increases in non-specific activity levels, whereas biperiden did not. A series of control tests suggests the effects of the mAChR antagonists were sensitive to changes in reward value and not driven by changes in satiety, motor fatigue, appetite or perseveration. Subsequently, a sub-effective dose of biperiden was able to facilitate the effects of amphetamine upon PR performance, suggesting an ability to enhance dopaminergic function. Both biperiden and scopolamine were also able to reverse a haloperidol-induced deficit in PR performance, however only biperiden was able to rescue the deficit in effort-related choice (ERC) performance. Taken together, these data suggest that the M1 mAChR may be a novel target for the pharmacological enhancement of effort exertion and consequent rescue of motivational impairments. Conversely, M4 receptors may inadvertently modulate effort exertion through regulation of general locomotor activity levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Apathy / drug effects*
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Biperiden / pharmacology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / chemically induced
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Haloperidol / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Motivation / drug effects*
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M4 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Scopolamine / pharmacology*
  • Tropicamide / pharmacology*


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M1
  • Receptor, Muscarinic M4
  • Biperiden
  • Scopolamine
  • Haloperidol
  • Tropicamide