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Brain Res Bull. 2010 Oct 30;83(5):238-44. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2010.08.010. Epub 2010 Aug 26.

Effect of modafinil on learning performance and neocortical long-term potentiation in rats.

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Autonomous University of Chile, Santiago, Chile.


Modafinil is a novel wake-promoting agent whose effects on cognitive performance have begun to be addressed at both preclinical and clinical level. The present study was designed to investigate in rats the effects of chronic modafinil administration on cognitive performance by evaluating: (i) working and reference memories in an Olton 4×4 maze, and (ii) learning of a complex operant conditioning task in a Skinner box. In addition, the effect of modafinil on the ability of the rat frontal cortex to develop long-term potentiation (LTP) was also studied. Chronic modafinil did not significantly modify working memory errors but decreased long-term memory errors on the Olton 4×4 maze, meaning that the drug may have a favourable profile on performance of visuo-spatial tasks (typically, a hippocampus-dependent task) when chronically administered. On the other hand, chronic modafinil resulted in a marked decrease of successful responses in a complex operant conditioning learning, which means that repeated administration of the drug influences negatively problem-solving abilities when confronting the rat to a sequencing task (typically, a prefrontal cortex-dependent task). In addition, in vivo electrophysiology showed that modafinil resulted in impaired capacity of the rat prefrontal cortex to develop LTP following tetanization. It is concluded that modafinil can improve the performance of spatial tasks that depend almost exclusively on hippocampal functioning, but not the performance in tasks including a temporal factor where the prefrontal cortex plays an important role. The fact that modafinil together with preventing operant conditioning learning was also able to block LTP induction in the prefrontal cortex, suggests that the drug could interfere some critical component required for LTP can be developed, thereby altering neuroplastic capabilities of the prefrontal cortex.

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