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A comparison of the effects of scopolamine and diazepam on acquisition and retention of inhibitory avoidance in mice

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Administration of either the muscarinic antagonist scopolamine or the benzodiazepine diazepam prior to training produced a dose-dependent impairment in the retention of one-trial inhibitory avoidance training in mice. To investigate the nature of this drug effect, the effects of scopolamine and diazepam were subsequently assessed on both acquisition and retention of inhibitory avoidance using a multiple-trial, training-to-criterion procedure. The training was conducted using either continuous trials in which the mouse was free to shuttle back and forth between shock and safe compartments or discrete trials in which the mouse was moved from the shock compartment of the safe compartment at the start of each trial. In either case, training continued until the mouse refrained from crossing into the shock compartment for a specified length of time on a single trial. Scopolamine (1.0 mg/kg) administered before training significantly increased the number of trials required to attain criterion, but did not affect retention when these mice were tested 2, 16, or 28 days later. In contrast, diazepam (1.0 mg/kg) did not significantly alter the number of trials necessary to reach criterion, but impaired retention of the inhibitory response in mice trained using discrete trials. The differences in the amnestic effects of scopolamine and diazepam revealed by this detailed analysis suggest that diazepam does not impair inhibitory avoidance performance through an effect on cholinergic function.

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Correspondence to Michael W. Decker.

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Decker, M.W., Tran, T. & McGaugh, J.L. A comparison of the effects of scopolamine and diazepam on acquisition and retention of inhibitory avoidance in mice. Psychopharmacology 100, 515–521 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02244005

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Key words

  • Inhibitory (passive) avoidance
  • Memory
  • Mice
  • Acetylcholine
  • Benzodiazepines