Chronic Propranolol Induces Deficits in Retention but Not Acquisition Performance in the Water Maze in Mice
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Neurobiology of Learning and Memory
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Agents that alter adrenergic receptors, such as “beta-blockers,” also alter memory storage. However, reports suggest that beta-adrenergic receptor antagonists, such as propranolol, have conflicting behavioral effects with acute vs chronic dosing. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of chronic propranolol on retention for a spatial learning task. Adult male ICR mice were given daily injections of propranolol (2, 4, 8, or 12 mg/kg ip) or 0.9% NaCl for 15 days prior to, and during, trials in a Morris water maze. Mice received five massed acquisition (escape) trials in each of three daily sessions, followed by a single 60-s probe trial on the fourth day. The location of the submerged platform was constant for each animal over acquisition trials, but varied across animals; starting position varied across trials. A 5 (dose) × 3 (trial blocks) mixed factorial ANOVA for escape time yielded a significant trial blocks effect only (p < .001), showing performance improving over sessions. Time spent in the target quadrant on the probe trial was shorter under all doses of propranolol when compared to vehicle group (all p < .001), indicating poorer retention of prior platform location. This effect, however, was not dose-related. Swim speed was not significantly affected by propranolol. These data demonstrate that chronic dosing with propranolol can impair retention of spatial learning, which cannot be attributed to reduced arousal or motor function.