Perseveration in a spatial-discrimination serial reversal learning task is differentially affected by MAO-A and MAO-B inhibition and associated with reduced anxiety and peripheral serotonin levels

Peter Zhukovsky, Johan Alsiö, Bianca Jupp, Jing Xia, Chiara Guiliano, Lucy Jenner, Jessica Griffiths, Errin Riley, Sajeed Ali, Angela C. Roberts, Trevor W. Robbins, Jeffrey W. Dalley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale: Impairments in behavioral flexibility lie at the core of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders. Few studies, however, have investigated the neural substrates of natural variation in behavioral flexibility and whether inflexible behavior is linked to anxiety and peripheral markers of stress and monoamine function. Objective: The objective of the study was to investigate peripheral and central markers associated with perseverative behavior on a spatial-discrimination serial reversal learning task. Methods: Rats were trained on a reversal learning task prior to blood sampling, anxiety assessment, and the behavioral evaluation of selective monoamine oxidase-A (MAO-A) and MAO-B inhibitors, which block the degradation of serotonin (5-HT), dopamine (DA), and noradrenaline (NA). Results: Perseveration correlated positively with 5-HT levels in blood plasma and inversely with trait anxiety, as measured on the elevated plus maze. No significant relationships were found between perseveration and the stress hormone corticosterone or the 5-HT precursor tryptophan. Reversal learning was significantly improved by systemic administration of the MAO-A inhibitor moclobemide but not by the MAO-B inhibitor lazabemide. Moclobemide also increased latencies to initiate a new trial following an incorrect response suggesting a possible role in modulating behavioral inhibition to negative feedback. MAO-A but not MAO-B inhibition resulted in pronounced increases in 5-HT and NA content in the orbitofrontal cortex and dorsal raphé nuclei and increased 5-HT and DA content in the basolateral amygdala and dorsomedial striatum. Conclusions: These findings indicate that central and peripheral monoaminergic mechanisms underlie inter-individual variation in behavioral flexibility, which overlaps with trait anxiety and depends on functional MAO-A activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1557-1571
Number of pages15
Issue number9-10
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Basolateral amygdala
  • Behavioral flexibility
  • Endophenotype
  • Lazabemide
  • Moclobemide
  • Orbitofrontal cortex
  • Striatum

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