A pharmacological investigation of noradrenergic receptor mechanisms in neophobia

Jeffery Dennis Steketee, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The dorsal noradrenergic bundle (DB) is a major ascending pathway which originates in the locus coeruleus of the brainstem and projects to the forebrain. The behavioral role of the DB remains unclear, despite a great deal of effort. Selective attention and anxiety are two areas which have been the focus of recent research. Some studies of the DB utilize the neurotoxin 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA), since 6-OHDA injection into this pathway results in greater than 90 percent depletion of cortical and hippocampal norepinephrine (NE). Neophobia, the fear of novelty, has been reported to be either increased or decreased by 6-OHDA lesions of the DB, depending on conditions. The selective attention hypothesis would be supported by increased neophobia after 6-OHDA lesions, while the anxiety hypothesis would be supported by decreased neophobia. We have examined the effects of 6-OHDA DB lesions on neophobia under conditions in which the test environment and/or the test food were novel. We found that the lesion attenuates neophobia, defined as an increased preference for novel food, when both the environment and food were novel. The lesion had no effect on neophobia when only the environment or food was novel. We examined the effects of chronic intraventricular NE infusions on behavior in our neophobia test, in sham and 6-OHDA DB lesioned animals. We found that chronic NE infusions into lesioned animals significantly reversed the lesion-induced attenuation of neophobia. Sham/NE infused animals demonstrated a 40 percent greater preference for familiar food compared to sham/saline infused animals. These data suggest that infusions of NE have an effect opposite to lesion-induced attenuation of neophobia. Chronic infusions of the alpha adrenoceptor agonists had no consistent effects on neophobia. The beta adrenoceptor agonist, isoproterenol reversed the lesion-induced attenuation of neophobia but not to a statistically significant degree. Isoproterenol increased neophobia in sham animals. Forskolin, an adenylate cyclase activator, mimicked the effects of NE infusion by significantly reversing the lesion-induced attenuation of neophobia, while increasing neophobia in sham animals. These results suggest that increased release of NE during stress increases neophobia in part by stimulating beta adrenoceptors which activate adenylate cyclase.

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Recommended Citation

Steketee, Jeffery Dennis, "A pharmacological investigation of noradrenergic receptor mechanisms in neophobia" (1989). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI8924471.