Galantamine facilitates acquisition of hippocampus-dependent trace eyeblink conditioning in aged rabbits.


Cholinergic systems are critical to the neural mechanisms mediating learning. Reduced nicotinic cholinergic receptor (nAChR) binding is a hallmark of normal aging. These reductions are markedly more severe in some dementias, such as Alzheimer's disease. Pharmacological central nervous system therapies are a means to ameliorate the cognitive deficits associated with normal aging and aging-related dementias. Trace eyeblink conditioning (EBC), a hippocampus- and forebrain-dependent learning paradigm, is impaired in both aged rabbits and aged humans, attributable in part to cholinergic dysfunction. In the present study, we examined the effects of galantamine (3 mg/kg), a cholinesterase inhibitor and nAChR allosteric potentiating ligand, on the acquisition of trace EBC in aged (30-33 months) and young (2-3 months) female rabbits. Trace EBC involves the association of a conditioned stimulus (CS) with an unconditioned stimulus (US), separated by a stimulus-free trace interval. Repeated CS-US pairings results in the development of the conditioned eyeblink response (CR) prior to US onset. Aged rabbits receiving daily injections of galantamine (Aged/Gal) exhibited significant improvements compared with age-matched controls in trials to eight CRs in 10 trial block criterion (P = 0.0402) as well as performance across 20 d of training [F(1,21) = 5.114, P = 0.0345]. Mean onset and peak latency of CRs exhibited by Aged/Gal rabbits also differed significantly [F(1,21) = 6.120/6.582, P = 0.0220/0.0180, respectively] compared with age-matched controls, resembling more closely CR timing of young drug and control rabbits. Galantamine did not improve acquisition rates in young rabbits compared with age-matched controls. These data indicate that by enhancing nicotinic and muscarinic transmission, galantamine is effective in offsetting the learning deficits associated with decreased cholinergic transmission in the aging brain.

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@article{Weible2004GalantamineFA, title={Galantamine facilitates acquisition of hippocampus-dependent trace eyeblink conditioning in aged rabbits.}, author={Aldis P. Weible and M Matthew Oh and Grace Meina Lee and John F. Disterhoft}, journal={Learning & memory}, year={2004}, volume={11 1}, pages={108-15} }