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Facilitation of spatial working memory performance following intra-prefrontal cortical administration of the adrenergic alpha1 agonist phenylephrine.

Hvoslef-Eide, Martha; Oomen, C. A.; Fisher, B. M.; Heath, C. J.; Robbins, T. W.; Saksida, L. M. and Bussey, T. J. (2015). Facilitation of spatial working memory performance following intra-prefrontal cortical administration of the adrenergic alpha1 agonist phenylephrine. Psychopharmacology, 232(21) pp. 4005–4016.

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Spatial working memory is dependent on the appropriate functioning of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). PFC activity can be modulated by noradrenaline (NA) released by afferent projections from the locus coeruleus. The coreuleo-cortical NA system could therefore be a target for cognitive enhancers of spatial working memory. Of the three classes of NA receptor potentially involved, the α2 and α1 classes seem most significant, though agents targeting these receptors have yielded mixed results. This may be partially due to the use of behavioural assays that do not translate effectively from the laboratory to the clinical setting. Use of a paradigm with improved translational potential may be essential to resolve these discrepancies.


The objective of this study was to assess the effects of PFC-infused α2 and α1 adrenergic receptor agonists on spatial working memory performance in the touchscreen continuous trial-unique non-matching to location (cTUNL) task in rats.


Young male rats were trained in the cTUNL paradigm. Cannulation of the mPFC allowed direct administration of GABA agonists for task validation, and phenylephrine and guanfacine to determine the effects of adrenergic agonists on task performance.


Infusion of muscimol and baclofen resulted in a delay-dependent impairment. Administration of the α2 agonist guanfacine had no effect, whilst infusion of the α1 agonist phenylephrine significantly improved working memory performance.


Spatial working memory as measured in the rat cTUNL task is dependent on the mPFC. Enhancement of noradrenergic signalling enhanced performance in this paradigm, suggesting a significant role for the α1 receptor in this facilitation.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2015 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
ISSN: 1432-2072
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Not Set089703/Z/09/ZWellcome Trust
Keywords: working memory; noradrenaline; prefrontal cortex; rat; touchscreen; phenylephrine; guanfacine; muscimol; baclofen
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Life, Health and Chemical Sciences
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Item ID: 44139
Depositing User: Christopher Heath
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2015 10:05
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2018 05:15
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