Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The endogenous opiate peptide, beta-endorphin (0.4, 1.0, 2.0, and 10.0 μg/kg) was injected IP into rats immediately after training in a shuttle avoidance task, and its effect on memory retention was evaluated in test sessions carried out 24 h later. The drug was found to cause retrograde amnesia, the ED50 being 1.0 μg/kg. Beta-endorphin immunoreactivity was measured in the hypothalamus and rest of the brain of rats submitted to training, or test sessions of shuttle avoidance learning, pseudoconditioning in the shuttle-box, tones alone, or foot-shocks alone. After training in any of the four paradigms, there was a marked (46–60%) depletion of beta-endorphin immunoreactivity in the rest of the brain. No changes were detected in the hypothalamus or after test sessions. The loss of beta-endorphin immunoreactivity may be attributed to release of this substance caused by the stimuli used for training. From the present findings, as well as previous observations on the memory-facilitating influence of the opiate receptor antagonist, naloxone, it is concluded that there is a physiological amnesic mechanism mediated by beta-endorphin (and perhaps other opoid peptides as well), which is triggered by the non-associative factors present in the various forms of learning.
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