The effects of serotonin depletion and raphe grafts on hippocampal electrophysiology and behavior.
The purpose of the present experiments was to study the effects of a combined cholinergic and serotonergic denervation of the rat forebrain on spatial learning using the Morris water maze task. Experiment 1 compared the acute effects of a radiofrequency lesion of the septum, an intraventricular 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) lesion, and a combined septal plus 5,7-DHT lesion. Although the 5,7-DHT lesion alone did not produce any significant deficits in the water maze task, the lesion greatly potentiated the learning impairments produced by the septal lesion. Thus, the rats with both lesions combined showed severe difficulties in finding the platform and they did not develop any place navigational search strategy. This effect was not dependent on any effect on swimming ability or locomotor activity. The long-term effects of the combined septal and 5,7-DHT lesion was investigated in experiment 2, where the rats were tested in the water maze both 5 and 24-25 weeks after surgery. In this experiment, the rats showed the same severe deficits in spatial learning in both tests, showing that the impairments remain for long periods and after extended training. The results show that a combination of a cholinergic and a serotonergic denervation of the rat forebrain produces pronounced impairments in spatial learning in the Morris water maze task, and that this effect is long-lasting. This indicates that the recently proposed serotonergic deficit in patients with Alzheimer's disease may contribute importantly to the cognitive disabilities in these patients.