, Volume 95, Issue 1, pp 1-14

Behavioural effects of histamine and its antagonists: a review

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Abstract

This review focusses on the behavioural effects of histamine and drugs which affect histaminergic function, particularly the H1- and H2-receptors antagonists. Research in this area has assumed considerable importance with increasing interest in the role of brain histamine, the clinical use of both H1 and H2 antagonists and evidence of nonmedical use of H1 antagonists. Results from a number of studies show that H1 and H2 antagonists have clear, but distinct subjective effects and that H1 antagonists have discriminative effects in animals. While H1 antagonists are reinforcers in certain conditions, histamine itself is a punisher. Moderate doses of H1 antagonists affect psychomotor performance in some situations, but the results are variable. The exceptions are terfenadine and astemizole, which do not seem to penetrate the blood-brain barrier readily. In studies of schedule-controlled behaviour, marked changes in response rate have been observed following administration of H1 antagonists, with the magnitude and direction dependent on the dose and the baseline behaviour. Histamine reduces avoidance responding, an effect mediated via H1-receptors. Changes in drinking and aggressive behaviour have also been observed following histamine administration and distinct roles for H1- and H2-receptors have been delineated. Separate H1- and H2-receptor mechanisms have also been suggested to account for changes in activity level. While the H2 antagonists do not always have strong behavioural effects when administered peripherally, there is evidence that cimetidine has a depressant effect on sexual function. These and other findings reveal an important role for histaminergic systems in a wide range of behaviour.