Journal article

Corticosteroid receptor antagonists are amnestic for passive avoidance learning in day-old chicks

Glucocorticoids can modulate behavioural processes and neural plasticity. They are released during learning situations and can trigger neural actions through binding to brain receptors. We hypothesized that a glucocorticoid action could play a critical role in the mechanisms involved in long-term memory formation. In order to test this hypothesis, chicks were trained on a passive avoidance learning task and given bilateral intracerebral injections of selective mineralocorticoid (RU-28318) or glucocorticoid (RU-38486) receptor antagonists. The results showed that both antagonists alter information processing when injected prior to the training session. Possible state-dependent effects were discharged. Further experiments evaluating possible effects of the antagonists on concomitant aspects of the learning situation (such as novelty reaction and pecking pattern) indicated that, as opposed to the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, the mineralocorticoid antagonist altered the birds' reactivity to non-specific aspects of the training task. These results suggest that the two types of intracellular corticosteroid receptors could be mediating different aspects of the information processing and storage involved in avoidance learning. In addition, this study points out that passive avoidance learning in the chick could be a good model to investigate the biochemical mechanisms involved in corticosteroid actions on learning-induced neural plasticity.


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