Nimodipine improves spatial working memory and elevates hippocampal acetylcholine in young rats

Aharon Levy, Roberto M. Kong, Michael J. Stillman, Barbara Shukitt-Hale, Tamar Kadar, Terry M. Rauch, Harris R. Lieberman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The calcium channel blocker nimodipine has been reported to improve cognitive performance in aged and brain-damaged animals. In the present study, the effects of nimodipine and placebo on spatial working memory and hippocampal acetylcholine were studied in young Fischer-344 rats. Nimodipine or placebo was administered via subcutaneously implanted, sustained-release pellets. Each active pellet contained 20 mg of nimodipine and released the drug over approximately 21 days. Two days after the drug or placebo pellets were implanted, training in the 8-arm radial maze started and continued for 12 days. Rats were required to learn a win-shift strategy. Nimodipine-treated animals learned the maze more rapidly than a placebo-treated group as indicated by the number of correct choices out of the first eight arms visited (p<0.001). Treated rats also made twice as many choices per unit time during the first week of training (p=0.005). To assess hippocampal acetylcholine release, in vivo microdialysis was performed while animals were awake and unrestrained, 19-21 days after pellet implantation. A probe with a 3 mm semipermeable tip was placed in the hippocampus (CA1 and dentate gyrus), and individual μl dialysate samples were collected at 2 μl/min and immediately analyzed by high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Significantly higher extracellular ACh levels were found in nimodipine-treated rats (71.4±3.6 nM; n=4) compared to controls (52.5±2.5 nM; n=5) (p=0.003) and in another group of rats of the same age that received identical drug treatment. It appears that sustained nimodipine treatment improves working memory and increases extracellular acetylcholine release in the hippocampus of young rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-786
Number of pages6
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1991
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Calcium channels
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Microdialysis
  • Nimodipine
  • Spatial memory


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