, Volume 170, Issue 3, pp 320–331 | Cite as

Global 5-HT depletion attenuates the ability of amphetamine to decrease impulsive choice on a delay-discounting task in rats

  • Catharine A. Winstanley
  • Jeffrey W. Dalley
  • David E. H. Theobald
  • Trevor W. Robbins
Original Investigation



Psychomotor stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate and amphetamine decrease impulsive behaviour in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder patients by unknown mechanisms. Although most behavioural effects of amphetamine are attributed to the dopaminergic system, some recent evidence suggests a role for serotonin in this paradoxical "calming" effect.


To investigate whether forebrain serotonin depletion affects the action of amphetamine in the rat on a delayed reward task where impulsive choice is measured as the selection of a smaller immediate over a larger delayed reward.


Following behavioural training, rats received i.c.v. infusions of either vehicle (n=10) or the serotonergic neurotoxin 5,7-DHT (n=10). Post-operatively, animals received i.p. d-amphetamine (0.3,1.0,1.5, and 2.3 mg/kg/ml), and d-amphetamine co-administered with the dopamine antagonist cis-z-flupenthixol.


5,7-DHT (i.c.v.) itself did not affect choice behaviour, despite depleting forebrain serotonin levels by over 85%. Amphetamine increased choice for the large reward, i.e. decreased impulsivity. This effect was attenuated by 5-HT depletion, particularly in animals showing a high level of impulsive choice. Co-administration of cis-z-flupenthixol (0.125 mg/kg) with d-amphetamine abolished the effect of amphetamine in the lesioned group, whereas this was only partially attenuated in the vehicle control group.


These data suggest that the ability of amphetamine to decrease impulsivity is not solely due to its effects on dopaminergic systems, but may also depend on serotonergic neurotransmission.


Amphetamine Serotonin Delay discounting ADHD Impulsivity 



This work was supported by a Wellcome Trust Programme grant and completed within the MRC Centre for Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience. CAW was supported by an MRC Studentship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catharine A. Winstanley
    • 1
  • Jeffrey W. Dalley
    • 1
  • David E. H. Theobald
    • 1
  • Trevor W. Robbins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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