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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2010 Sep;13(8):1011-20. doi: 10.1017/S1461145710000234. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

Phencyclidine withdrawal disrupts episodic-like memory in rats: reversal by donepezil but not clozapine.

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.


Episodic memory is the capacity to recall an event in time and place (What? Where? When?). Impaired episodic memory is a debilitating cognitive symptom in schizophrenia but is poorly controlled by currently available antipsychotic drugs. Consistent with glutamatergic abnormality in schizophrenia, the NDMA receptor antagonist, phencyclidine (PCP), induces persistent 'schizophrenia-like' symptoms including memory deficits in humans and rodents and is widely used as an animal model of the disorder. However, in contrast to humans, PCP and PCP withdrawal-induced memory deficits in rodents are reversed by antipsychotic drugs such as clozapine. One possible explanation is that the memory tasks used in animal studies do not simultaneously test the What? Where? When? components that characterize episodic memory in human tasks. We investigated whether subchronic PCP withdrawal disrupts memory in rats in a task that requires simultaneous integration of memory for object, place and context. Rats learn to discriminate objects under specific spatial and contextual conditions analogous to the What? Where? When? components of human episodic memory. We found that PCP withdrawal impaired performance on this task and that the atypical antipsychotic drug clozapine did not reverse this impairment. However the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor (AChEI) donepezil, which has been shown to improve episodic memory in humans did reverse the effect of PCP. This suggests that PCP withdrawal disruption of object-place-context recognition in rats may prove to be a useful model to investigate episodic memory impairment in schizophrenia and supports the suggestion that AChEIs could prove to be a useful pharmacological strategy to specifically treat episodic memory problems in schizophrenia.

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