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MK-801-induced impairments on the Trial-Unique, Delayed Nonmatching-to-Location task in rats: effects of acute sodium nitroprusside



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The cognitive symptoms observed in schizophrenia are highly prevalent and predictive of patient functional outcome but are not usually alleviated by conventional antipsychotics. In a recent pilot study, sodium nitroprusside (SNP), a nitric oxide donor, was identified as a promising adjunct treatment to reduce the working memory impairments experienced by schizophrenia patients. Adjunctive SNP has also been reported to decrease the positive and negative symptoms experienced by patients for weeks following a single administration. The mechanisms underlying these changes and the areas of cognition affected remain largely unknown. Therefore, it is of interest to examine the effects of SNP using a rodent model of schizophrenia that has demonstrated predictive validity. The aim of the present experiment was to explore the effects of SNP on the acute MK-801 rodent model of schizophrenia using a highly translatable task in order to establish its validity. Working memory and pattern separation were measured using the trial-unique, delayed nonmatching-to-location (TUNL) task in touchscreen-equipped operant conditioning chambers. Acute MK-801 administration 25 minutes prior to task initiation impaired both areas of cognition. When SNP and MK-801 were administered within 5 minutes of each other, no interaction was observed. Interestingly, SNP improved performance on trials with difficult to discriminate patterns (p=0.058). Previous rodent studies using the ketamine model of schizophrenia and the novel object preference task observed a preventative effect of SNP administration. When we administered SNP nearly 4 hours prior to MK-801, no cognitive improvements were observed. Our results suggest that SNP may have intrinsic cognitive enhancing properties but is not capable of reducing MK-801-induced working memory and pattern separation impairments in the TUNL task. This study failed to mirror the results of the human pilot study that observed improved working memory following SNP administration. Further, it did not replicate previous animal studies using ketamine. Ultimately, the findings suggest that the effects of MK-801 in the TUNL task may not hold the predictive validity needed for its use in the study of SNP. In order to advance the understanding of SNP, future studies should investigate other translatable paradigms to establish validity.



schizophrenia, NMDA receptor, nitric oxide donor, working memory, pattern separation



Master of Science (M.Sc.)






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