Negative effects of chronic oral chlorpromazine and olanzapine treatment on the performance of tasks designed to assess spatial learning and working memory in rats

A. V. Terry, S. E. Warner, L. Vandenhuerk, A. Pillai, S. P. Mahadik, G. Zhang, M. G. Bartlett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

21 Scopus citations


Learning potential and memory capacity are factors that strongly predict the level of rehabilitation and the long-term functional outcome in patients with schizophrenia. Unfortunately, however, the effects of antipsychotic drugs (i.e. the primary treatments for schizophrenia) on these components of cognition are unclear, particularly when they are administered chronically (i.e. a standard clinical practice). In this rodent study we evaluated the effects of different time periods (ranging from 2 weeks to 6 months) of oral treatment with the first generation antipsychotic chlorpromazine (10.0 mg/kg/day), or the second generation antipsychotic olanzapine (10.0 mg/kg/day) on the repeated acquisition of a water maze task (i.e. a method of assessing spatial learning potential in a repeated testing format). We assessed locomotor function (in an open field) and employed a radial arm maze (RAM) task to assess antipsychotic effects (5.0 and 10.0 mg/kg/day doses) on spatial working memory during the treatment period between 15 days and 2 months. Finally, we conducted experiments using liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to evaluate the therapeutic relevance of our method of drug delivery (oral administration in drinking water). In the water maze experiments, both antipsychotics were associated with impairments in acquisition in the earlier test sessions that could eventually be overcome with repeated testing while olanzapine also impaired retention in probe trials. Both antipsychotics were also associated with impairments in delayed non-match-to-position trials in the RAM and some impairments of motor function (especially in the case of olanzapine) as indicated by slightly reduced swim speeds in the water maze and decreased activity in some components of the open field assessment. Finally, LC-MS/MS studies indicated that the method of antipsychotic administration generated clinically relevant plasma levels in the rat. These animal data indicate that chronic oral treatment with chlorpromazine or olanzapine can impair the performance of tasks designed to assess specific components of cognition that are affected in schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1005-1016
Number of pages12
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 28 2008



  • antipsychotic
  • cognition
  • neuroleptic
  • radial arm maze
  • schizophrenia
  • water maze

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

Cite this