Neonatal Quinpirole Treatment Impairs Morris Water Task Performance in Early Postweanling Rats: Relationship to Increases in Corticosterone and Decreases in Neurotrophic Factors

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Past studies from this laboratory have shown that quinpirole administration from postnatal day (P) 1–21 produces persistent supersensitization of the dopamine D2 receptor that persists throughout the animal's lifetime.


In Experiment 1, both male and female rats were treated with quinpirole or saline from P1–21 and tested on the place and match-to-place versions of the Morris water task (MWT) from P22–28. In Experiment 2, both male and female rats were administered either acute or chronic injections of quinpirole (1 mg/kg) or saline beginning on P1 until analysis for corticosterone (CORT) on P7, 14, or 21.


Neonatal quinpirole treatment produced deficits on both versions of the MWT compared with saline control. One day after behavioral testing, brain tissue was harvested, and the hippocampus was analyzed for nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived nerve growth factor (BDNF); NGF was found to be significantly decreased by neonatal quinpirole treatment. Acute or chronic quinpirole treatment on P14 produced a larger increase in CORT than controls and produced larger increases in CORT than control rats on P21.


These results demonstrate that neonatal quinpirole treatment produces cognitive deficits that could be related to decreases in hippocampal NGF and increases in CORT, resulting in abnormalities in hippocampal development.