The results of previous studies indicate that the extent of a transient decline in brain norepinephrine (NE) levels shortly after training and administration of any of several memory modulating treatments is correlated with later retention performance. The present experiment assessed such changes after one-trial inhibitory (passive) avoidance training and, in addition, measured concentration changes in 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG), the major metabolite of brain NE, as well as dopamine (DA) and epinephrine (EPI) levels. The results indicate that the decreases in brain NE after footshock are accompanied by an increase in MHPG, thus providing additional evidence that brain NE is released after training. DA levels were unchanged after training; brainstem EPI levels increased after the training footshock, but forebrain EPI levels were unchanged. A second experiment examined brain catecholamine levels in animals which received post-training electrical stimulation of the amygdala. The findings of this experiment indicate that the amygdala damage which accompanies electrode implantation apparently results in a chronic change in whole brain NE levels and metabolism. After amygdala implantation, NE concentrations in both brainstem and forebrain samples were reduced by 20% and MHPG was increased by 22-34%. Furthermore, NE levels were not responsive to training in implanted animals. Thus, brain NE levels after training were not predictive of retention performance in amygdala-implanted or -stimulated animals. However, the significance of such findings for understanding the possible role of central NE in memory storage is complicated by the severe modification of the dynamics of brain aminergic systems in animals bearing amygdala electrodes.
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