We investigated the effects of dizocilpine, a non-competitive N-methyl- D-aspartate receptor antagonist, on spatial reference and working memory in a radial arm maze task in rats with a unilateral hippocampal lesion. At a dose of 0.2 mg/kg to intact rats, dizocilpine significantly impaired both reference and working memory, and produced ataxia and impairment of food intake; at 0.1 mg/kg, dizocilpine had no effect on performance. Unilateral hippocampal lesion induced by quinolinic acid produced a marked working memory deficit concomitant with a slight but significant impairment of reference memory when mnemonic ability was examined one week after the lesion. The spatial memory deficits in the rats with a unilateral hippocampal lesion were ameliorated by repeated daily trainings over a 21-day period. Following recovery of the spatial memory deficits produced by the brain lesion (four weeks after the brain lesion), dizocilpine (0.1 mg/kg) significantly impaired both reference and working memory, without affecting general behavior or food intake in the brain-lesioned rats. An impairment of working memory, but not reference memory, by dizocilpine was observed six weeks after the brain lesion. However, the disrupting effect of dizocilpine at 0.1 mg/kg on spatial working memory had disappeared at eight weeks after the lesion. Ten weeks after the brain lesion, dizocilpine at 0.2 mg/kg was necessary to induce spatial memory impairment, which was accompanied by motor and food intake deficits, as in intact rats. In sham-operated rats, the dose- response effects of dizocilpine did not differ from those in intact rats at any time after the operation. These results suggest that two phases of behavioral plasticity take place, depending on demand, to compensate for brain dysfunction after the unilateral lesion of the hippocampus in rats.
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