Protracted effects of chronic oral haloperidol and risperidone on nerve growth factor, cholinergic neurons, and spatial reference learning in rats

A. V. Terry, D. A. Gearhart, S. Warner, E. J. Hohnadel, M. L. Middlemore, G. Zhang, M. G. Bartlett, S. P. Mahadik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


The primary therapeutic agents used for schizophrenia, antipsychotic drugs, ameliorate psychotic symptoms; however, their chronic effects on cognition (or the physiologic processes of the brain that support cognition) are largely unknown. The purpose of this rodent study was to extend our previous work on this subject by investigating persistent effects (i.e. during a 14 day drug-free washout period) of chronic treatment (i.e. ranging from 45 days to 6 months) with a representative first and second generation antipsychotic. Drug effects on learning and memory and important neurobiological substrates of memory, the neurotrophin, nerve growth factor (NGF) and its receptors, and certain components of the basal forebrain cholinergic system were investigated. Behavioral effects of oral haloperidol (2.0 mg/kg/day), or risperidone (2.5 mg/kg/day) were assessed in an open field, a water maze task, and a radial arm maze procedure and neurochemical effects in brain tissue were subsequently measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs). The results indicated that both antipsychotics produced time-dependent and protracted deficits in the performance of a water maze procedure when compared with vehicle-treated controls, while neither drug was associated with significant alterations in radial arm maze performance. Interestingly, haloperidol, but not risperidone, was detectible in the rodent brain in appreciable levels for up to 2 weeks after drug discontinuation. Both antipsychotics were also associated with reduced levels of NGF protein in the basal forebrain and prefrontal cortex and significant (or nearly significant) decreases in phosphorylated tropomyosin-receptor kinase A (TrkA) protein and the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (depending on the brain region analyzed). Neither antipsychotic markedly affected TrkA or p75 neurotrophin receptor levels. These data in rats indicate that chronic treatment with either haloperidol or risperidone may be associated with protracted negative effects on cognitive function as well as important neurotrophin and neurotransmitter pathways that support cognition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-424
Number of pages12
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 5 2007


  • acetylcholine
  • antipsychotic
  • cognition
  • memory
  • neurotrophin
  • schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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