The role of 5-HT2C receptors in touchscreen visual reversal learning in the rat: A cross-site study

J. Alsiö*, S. R.O. Nilsson, F. Gastambide, R. A.H. Wang, S. A. Dam, A. C. Mar, M. Tricklebank, T. W. Robbins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Reversal learning requires associative learning and executive functioning to suppress non-adaptive responding. Reversal-learning deficits are observed in e.g. schizophrenia and obsessive-compulsive disorder and implicate neural circuitry including the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). Serotonergic function has been strongly linked to visual reversal learning in humans and experimental animals but less is known about which receptor subtypes are involved. Objectives: The objectives of the study were to test the effects of systemic and intra-OFC 5-HT2C-receptor antagonism on visual reversal learning in rats and assess the psychological mechanisms underlying these effects within novel touchscreen paradigms. Methods: In experiments 1-2, we used a novel 3-stimulus task to investigate the effects of 5-HT2C-receptor antagonism through SB 242084 (0.1, 0.5 and 1.0 mg/kg i.p.) cross-site. Experiment 3 assessed the effects of SB 242084 in 2-choice reversal learning. In experiment 4, we validated a novel touchscreen serial visual reversal task suitable for neuropharmacological microinfusions by baclofen-/muscimol-induced OFC inactivation. In experiment 5, we tested the effect of intra-OFC SB 242084 (1.0 or 3.0 μg/side) on performance in this task. Results: In experiments 1-3, SB 242084 reduced early errors but increased late errors to criterion. In experiment 5, intra-OFC SB 242084 reduced early errors without increasing late errors in a reversal paradigm validated as OFC dependent (experiment 4). Conclusion: Intra-OFC 5-HT2C-receptor antagonism decreases perseveration in novel touchscreen reversal-learning paradigms for the rat. Systemic 5-HT2C-receptor antagonism additionally impairs late learning - a robust effect observed cross-site and potentially linked to impulsivity. These conclusions are discussed in terms of neural mechanisms underlying reversal learning and their relevance to psychiatric disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4017-4031
Number of pages15
Issue number21-22
Early online date26 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


  • 5-HT receptor
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Rat
  • Reversal learning
  • SB 242084

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