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Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2006 Mar;27(3):141-8. Epub 2006 Feb 21.

Behavioural pharmacology: 40+ years of progress, with a focus on glutamate receptors and cognition.

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Department of Experimental Psychology and University of Cambridge Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK.


Behavioural pharmacology is an interdisciplinary field at the intersection of several research areas that ultimately lead to the development of drugs for clinical use and build understanding of how brain functions enable cognition and behaviour. In this article, the development of behavioural pharmacology in the UK is briefly surveyed, and the current status and success of the field is highlighted by the progress in our understanding of learning and memory that has resulted from discoveries in glutamate receptor pharmacology allied to theoretical and methodological advances in behavioural neuroscience. We describe the original breakthrough in terms of the role of NMDA receptors in hippocampal-mediated spatial learning and long-term potentiation, and review recent advances that demonstrate the involvement of glutamate receptor in working memory, recognition memory, stimulus-response learning and memory, and higher cognitive functions. We also discuss the unique functions of NMDA receptors and the fundamental role of AMPA receptors in processes that are common to some of these forms of memory, including encoding, consolidation and retrieval.

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