Scopolamine induces disruption of latent inhibition which is prevented by antipsychotic drugs and an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor

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The fact that muscarinic antagonists may evoke a psychotic state ('antimuscarinic psychosis'), along with findings of cholinergic alterations in schizophrenia, have kindled an interest in the involvement of the cholinergic system in this disorder. Latent inhibition (LI) is a cross-species phenomenon manifested as a poorer conditioning of a stimulus seen when the stage of conditioning is preceded by a stage of repeated nonreinforced pre-exposure to that stimulus, and is considered to index the capacity to ignore irrelevant stimuli. Amphetamine-induced LI disruption and its reversal by antipsychotic drugs (APDs) is a well-established model of positive symptoms of schizophrenia. Here, we tested whether the muscarinic antagonist scopolamine would disrupt LI and whether such disruption would be reversed by APDs and by the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine. The results showed that scopolamine at doses of 0.15 and 0.5 mg/kg disrupted LI, and that this effect was due to the action of the drug in the pre-exposure stage, suggesting a role of muscarinic transmission in attentional processes underlying LI. Both the typical and the atypical APDs, haloperidol and clozapine, reversed scopolamine-induced LI disruption when given in conditioning or in both stages, but not in pre-exposure, indicating that the mechanism of antipsychotic action in this model is independent of the mechanism of action of the propsychotic drug. Scopolamine-induced LI disruption was reversed by physostigmine (0.05 and 0.15 mg/kg), which was ineffective in reversing amphetamine-induced LI disruption, pointing to distinct mechanisms underlying LI disruption by these two propsychotic drugs. The latter was further supported by the finding that unlike amphetamine, the LI-disrupting doses of scopolamine did not affect activity levels. We propose scopolamine-induced LI disruption as a model of cholinergic-related positive symptoms in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-999
Number of pages11
Issue number5
StatePublished - 24 May 2007


  • Acetylcholine
  • Antipsychotic drugs
  • Latent inhibition
  • Physostigmine
  • Schizophrenia
  • Scopolamine


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