The effects of a selective serotonin1A receptor agonist, 8-hydroxy-2-(di-n-propylamino)tetralin (8-OH-DPAT), were studied in two animal models of anxiety. Peripherally injected 8-OH-DPAT in doses ranging from 0.125 to 2.0 mg/kg did not increase black-white transitions (BWT) and black square entries (BSE) in a two-compartment exploratory test or punished responding in a test of conditioned suppression of drinking. With 2.0 mg/kg 8-OH-DPAT BSE and unpunished responding were reduced. In an investigation of the drinking time of water-deprived rats, naive or habituated to the test environment, 1.0 and 2.0 mg/kg 8-OH-DPAT increased the drinking time of naive rats but 2.0 mg/kg 8-OH-DPAT reduced that of habituated animals. In animals deprived of water for 48 h or subjected to immobilization stress for 2 h, 1.0 mg/kg 8-OH-DPAT increased BWT and BSE values in the two-compartment exploratory test. Infusions of 5 μg/0.5 μl 8-OH-DPAT in the nucleus raphe medianus increased BWT and BSE values in the exploratory test and punished responding in the test of conditioned suppression of drinking, whereas the same dose of 8-OH-DPAT injected in the nucleus raphe dorsalis had no effect on punished but suppressed unpunished responding. The effects of 8-OH-DPAT are only detectable in the appropriate experimental conditions. When injected systemically, the effects are evident when a state of arousal of the animals contributes to the overall behavioural output. 8-OH-DPAT shows effects comparable to those of established anxiolytics such as benzodiazepines and barbiturates when it is injected in the nucleus raphe medianus, but not in the dorsalis. The data support the hypothesis that brain serotonin is involved in the mechanisms mediating behavioural suppression in the presence of aversive stimuli.
- Raphe nuclei
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