Stimulation of alpha-1 adrenergic receptors facilitates spatial learning in rats

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 1998 Feb;8(1):17-26. doi: 10.1016/s0924-977x(97)00040-0.


The present experiments were designed to examine the effects of alpha-1 adrenergic stimulation and inhibition on memory encoding and to investigate whether the alpha-1 adrenergic and muscarinic cholinergic systems interact in the regulation of spatial navigation behavior in the Morris water maze test and we also studied the effects of D-cycloserine, a partial agonist at the glycine binding site on the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor complex, on the performance of scopolamine-treated rats in this task. Pre-training subcutaneous administration of St-587 (a putative alpha-1 agonist) at 1000 micrograms kg-1 or 1500 micrograms kg-1 improved water maze navigation to a hidden platform. Prazosin (an alpha-1 antagonist), 300-2000 micrograms kg-1, did not significantly impair the spatial navigation performance. Pre-training administration of prazosin 1000 micrograms kg-1, but not 300 micrograms kg-1, slightly potentiated the deficit in water maze navigation seen after scopolamine (200 micrograms kg-1, pre-training intraperitoneal injection). Pre-training administration of St-587 at a dose 1500 micrograms kg-1, but not 500 micrograms kg-1, slightly ameliorated the scopolamine-induced (200 micrograms kg-1) impairment in performance of rats. Pre-training administration of prazosin at doses 300 or 1000 micrograms kg-1 or St-587 at doses 500 micrograms kg-1 or 1500 micrograms kg-1 did not have any significant influence on the scopolamine-induced (200 micrograms kg-1) increase of swimming speed. Furthermore, D-cycloserine at the dose of 300 micrograms kg-1 but not 1000 or 3000 micrograms kg-1 reversed the scopolamine (200 micrograms kg-1)-induced deficit in acquisition of the water maze task but not the increase in motor output (increased swimming speed). These results indicate that the stimulation of alpha-1 adrenoceptors may facilitate the encoding of new information. These findings suggest that alpha-1 adrenergic mechanisms do not participate or at least are not the most critical part of the noradrenergic system in the interaction between noradrenaline and muscarinic receptors in the modulation of learning and memory. In addition, these results suggest that D-cycloserine may be effective in alleviating states of central cholinergic hypofunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic alpha-1 Receptor Agonists*
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites / pharmacology
  • Clonidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Clonidine / pharmacology
  • Cycloserine / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects*
  • Muscarinic Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Prazosin / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Glycine / agonists
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / agonists
  • Scopolamine / pharmacology
  • Swimming


  • Adrenergic alpha-1 Receptor Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Agonists
  • Adrenergic alpha-Antagonists
  • Antimetabolites
  • Muscarinic Antagonists
  • Receptors, Glycine
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • St 587
  • Cycloserine
  • Scopolamine
  • Clonidine
  • Prazosin