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Brain Res. 2005 Mar 2;1036(1-2):115-21.

Restoration of learning ability in hyperammonemic rats by increasing extracellular cGMP in brain.

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Laboratory of Neurobiology. Fundación Valenciana de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Amadeo de Saboya, 4. 46010 Valencia, Spain.


Intellectual function is impaired in patients with hyperammonemia and hepatic encephalopathy. Chronic hyperammonemia with or without liver failure impairs the glutamate-nitric oxide-cGMP pathway function in brain in vivo and reduces extracellular cGMP in brain as well as the ability of rats to learn a Y maze conditional discrimination task. We hypothesized that the decrease in extracellular cGMP may be responsible for the impairment in learning ability and intellectual function and that pharmacological modulation of the levels of cGMP may restore learning ability. The aim of this work was to try to reverse the impairment in learning ability of hyperammonemic rats by pharmacologically increasing extracellular cGMP in brain. We assessed whether learning ability may be restored by increasing extracellular cGMP in brain by continuous intracerebral administration of: (1) zaprinast, an inhibitor of the phosphodiesterase that degrades cGMP or (2) cGMP. We carried out tests of conditional discrimination learning in a Y maze with control and hyperammonemic rats treated or not with zaprinast or cGMP. Learning ability was reduced in hyperammonemic rats, which needed more trials than control rats to learn the task. Continuous intracerebral administration of zaprinast or cGMP restored the ability of hyperammonemic rats to learn this task. Pharmacological modulation of extracellular cGMP levels in brain may be a useful therapeutic approach to improve learning and memory performance in individuals in whom cognitive abilities are impaired by different reasons, for example in patients with liver disease who present hyperammonemia and decreased intellectual function.

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