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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1997 Oct;133(4):329-42.

Central 5-HT depletion enhances impulsive responding without affecting the accuracy of attentional performance: interactions with dopaminergic mechanisms.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge University, UK.


A series of ten experiments examined the effects of profound central 5-HT depletion on attentional performance in the rat in the five-choice serial reaction time task, and also determined the effects of such depletion on responding affected by d-amphetamine and by selective dopamine receptor antagonists. Rats were trained to detect and locate brief visual stimuli randomly presented in one of five spatial locations. When performance had stabilised (> 80% correct, < 20% omissions), selective central 5-HT depletion was induced by intracerebroventricular administration of the neurotoxin 5,7-dihydroxytryptamine (5,7-DHT) following pretreatment with both a noradrenergic and a dopaminergic re-uptake inhibitor. The lesioned animals performed the five-choice serial reaction time task with the same degree of accuracy as the sham-operated controls. However, 5-HT depletion reduced the percentage of omitted trials and increased the number of premature/anticipatory responses. This pattern of behaviour following 5-HT depletion could not be attributed to enhanced primary motivation as demonstrated by measures of food intake and latencies to collect food reinforcement. The lesion attenuated the increase of premature responding induced by high doses of systemically administered d-amphetamine. 5-HT depletion also attenuated the dose-dependent decrease in accuracy induced by (-)-sulpiride, a D2 receptor antagonist, although the effects of this drug on response latencies and premature responding were similar in both groups. However, the systemic administration of the D1 receptor antagonist, SCH 23390, blocked the impulsive responding produced by the lesion as indicated by a lack of lesion effects on the percentage of omitted trials and premature responding. The results suggest that central 5-HT depletion results in impulsive, fast responding, which nevertheless does not impair accuracy of visual discrimination performance. The increased impulsivity may be mediated by altered 5-HT-dopamine interactions, with the lesion removing an inhibitory influence over dopamine neurotransmission.

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