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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2013 Mar;104:62-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pbb.2012.12.018. Epub 2013 Jan 2.

Cognition-impairing effects of benzodiazepine-type drugs: role of GABAA receptor subtypes in an executive function task in rhesus monkeys.

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Division of Neuroscience, New England Primate Research Center, Harvard Medical School, Box 9102, 1 Pine Hill Drive, Southborough, MA 01772, USA.


The present studies evaluated the role of α1 and α5 subunit-containing GABAA receptors (α1GABAA and α5GABAA receptors, respectively) in the ability of benzodiazepine (BZ)-type drugs to alter performance in the cognitive domain of executive function. Five adult female rhesus monkeys (ages of 9-17years old) were trained on the object retrieval with detours (ORD) task of executive function. For the ORD task, the monkeys were required to retrieve food items from a clear box with one open end that was rotated to different positions along with varying placements of food. When the non-selective BZ triazolam and the α1GABAA-preferring agonists zolpidem and zaleplon were evaluated in the ORD task, deficits in performance occurred at doses that did not increase the latency of monkeys to initiate responding and/or increase the percentage of reaches that were incorrect (i.e., reaches in which food was not obtained). Cognition-impairing effects of triazolam and zolpidem in ORD were blocked by the α1GABAA-preferring antagonist, βCCT, whereas the α5GABAA-preferring antagonist XLi-093 blocked the effects of triazolam but not zolpidem. While these findings suggest a role for both α1GABAA and α5GABAA receptor mechanisms, α1GABAA receptor mechanisms appear to be sufficient for impairments in executive function induced by BZ-type drugs.

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