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Spontaneous exploration of a 6-arm radial tunnel maze by basal forebrain lesioned rats: effects of the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist β-carboline ZK 93 426


Nine days following ibotenic acid induced basal forebrain lesions or a sham-operation, rats were allowed to explore an automated six-arm radial tunnel maze. From each session, several measures of locomotor and exploratory activity were registered. Lesioned and sham-operated animals were treated with either the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist β-carboline ZK 93 426 (5 mg/kg; IP) or vehicle (Cremofor EL 10% in saline; IP; n=10 for each group). Treatment was carried out 30 min before each session during acquisition (seven sessions) and reversals of the maze configuration (seven session). Eight days following the 14th session, the animals were retested without any further drug treatment. The main results suggest that the lesion resulted in locomotor hyperactivity, an increase in the number of blind arm entries, and of choice stereotypy. Treatment with ZK 93 426 attenuated the lesion-induced alterations of locomotor and exploratory activities. During the retest, the lesioned, previously vehicle-treated rats revisited arms which they had already explored during this session more frequently than the lesioned, previously ZK-treated rats; the latter group did not differ from the sham-lesioned controls. It is concluded that basal forebrain lesioned animals explored the tunnel maze less efficiently than sham-lesioned controls and that the lesioned animals benefited from the treatment with ZK 93 426. Although the specificity of the lesion in terms of destruction of cholinergic neurons remains unsettled, and although the psychological significances of the behavioral measures obtained from the tunnel maze are not yet fully understood, these results suggest that antagonists or partial inverse agonists at the benzodiazepine receptor may be able to normalize basal forebrain lesion-induced behavioral alterations.

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Correspondence to Martin Sarter.

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Sarter, M., Steckler, T. Spontaneous exploration of a 6-arm radial tunnel maze by basal forebrain lesioned rats: effects of the benzodiazepine receptor antagonist β-carboline ZK 93 426. Psychopharmacology 98, 193–202 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00444691

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Key words

  • Basal forebrain
  • Spontaneous exploration
  • Benzodiazepine receptor antagonist
  • ZK 93 426
  • β-carboline