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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2001 Mar;75(2):214-29.

A behavioral study of alpha-1b adrenergic receptor knockout mice: increased reaction to novelty and selectively reduced learning capacities.

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  • 1Institut de Physiologie, Bugnon 7, Lausanne, CH-1005, Switzerland.


Knockout mice lacking the alpha-1b adrenergic receptor were tested in behavioral experiments. Reaction to novelty was first assessed in a simple test in which the time taken by the knockout mice and their littermate controls to enter a second compartment was compared. Then the mice were tested in an open field to which unknown objects were subsequently added. Special novelty was introduced by moving one of the familiar objects to another location in the open field. Spatial behavior and memory were further studied in a homing board test, and in the water maze. The alpha-1b knockout mice showed an enhanced reactivity to new situations. They were faster to enter the new environment, covered longer paths in the open field, and spent more time exploring the new objects. They reacted like controls to modification inducing spatial novelty. In the homing board test, both the knockout mice and the control mice seemed to use a combination of distant visual and proximal olfactory cues, showing place preference only if the two types of cues were redundant. In the water maze the alpha-1b knockout mice were unable to learn the task, which was confirmed in a probe trial without platform. They were perfectly able, however, to escape in a visible platform procedure. These results confirm previous findings showing that the noradrenergic pathway is important for the modulation of behaviors such as reaction to novelty and exploration, and suggest that this is mediated, at least partly, through the alpha-1b adrenergic receptors. The lack of alpha-1b adrenergic receptors in spatial orientation does not seem important in cue-rich tasks but may interfere with orientation in situations providing distant cues only.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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