Evidence that mnesic states govern normal and disordered memory

F. C. Colpaert, W. Koek, L. A. Bruins Slot

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Although it is recognized that retrieval may be state-dependent, only recently has a paradigm been identified that allows state-dependence in rats to be demonstrated reliably and at relevant doses of CNS agents. In humans, the effects of scopolamine constitute a valuable model of disordered memory. We used this paradigm to analyze the effects of scopolamine on different memory processes. Rats treated with either saline or 0.01-10mg/kg doses of scopolamine learned to lever press for milk reward, and were then tested for retrieval while given the same or a different treatment. Saline-to-scopolamine as well as scopolamine-to-saline state changes produced robust failures to retrieve the response. Remarkably, the state produced by 2.5mg/kg scopolamine, like that produced by saline, produced little intrinsic effect on learning or any other memory process (i.e. when the prevailing state was left unchanged). However, changing the implemented state from one to the other between two different processes, disrupted not only retrieval, but also learning, encoding and retention. We also determined whether the graded state changes produced by 0.01-10mg/kg doses of scopolamine could mimic the peculiar and poorly understood temporally graded retrograde amnesia that occurs in Alzheimer's disease. In rats that had acquired a complex drug-discrimination task over a 6-month period, scopolamine-induced state changes seemed to produce dose-dependent deficits in the retrieval of recent information while preserving those abilities that had been acquired in the increasingly remote past. Beyond its role in retrieval, the findings implicate state dependence in learning, encoding and retention, and suggest that physiologically defined mnesic states govern each of these. The changes of mnesic state that are likely associated with excessively labile cholinergic neurotransmission may conceivably cause the complex disabilities of Alzheimer's disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)575-589
Number of pages15
JournalBehavioural Pharmacology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Encoding
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Rat
  • Retention
  • Retrieval
  • Scopolamine
  • State-dependence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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