Comparison of error patterns produced by scopolamine and MK-801 on repeated acquisition and transition baselines

Jeffrey Cohn, John M. Ziriax, Christopher Cox, Deborah A. Cory-Slechta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


An understanding of the differential role of cholinergic and glutaminergic systems may be limited by the failure to move the analysis of learning impairments beyond an assessment of changes in overall accuracy. This paper reports the results of two studies in which the effects in rats of scopolamine (0.5-3.0 mg/kg IP), a cholinergic antagonist, and MK-801 (0.05-0.3 mg/kg IP), an NMDA-receptor antagonist, were compared in two different repeated learning procedures and the nature of the underlying error patterns produced by each was evaluated. The first study examined drug effects upon a repeated sequence acquisition procedure and found that while both drugs decreased overall accuracy in a dose-dependent manner, the predominant error pattern varied significantly with drug; scopolamine primarily produced skipping errors within the sequence, whereas MK-801 more prominently increased perseveration on the first and second members of the sequence. In the second study, which used a repeated transition procedure, both drugs again significantly decreased overall accuracy in a dose-dependent manner, but no consistent differences in error patterning produced by the drugs were observed. Thus, while both cholinergic and NMDA systems play a role in learning, the behavioral processes underlying the changes in overall accuracy may differ, as indicated by the differential patterns of errors produced by scopolamine and MK-801 in the repeated acquisition baseline. Furthermore, the observed differences in the underlying behavioral processes of scopolamine and MK-801 in the repeated acquisition but not on the repeated transition procedure suggest that each of the two drugs may affect more than one of the variables controlling behavior, with the relative impact of drug-related changes in controlling variables depending upon the operative contingencies of the learning task.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-254
Number of pages12
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 1 1992



  • Learning
  • MK-801
  • Rats
  • Repeated acquisition
  • Repeated transitions
  • Scopolamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology

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