Comparison of behavioral effects of the NMDA receptor channel blockers memantine and ketamine in rats



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior



First Page


Last Page





Alzheimer's disease, Exploratory activity, Perseverative behavior, Pharmacokinetics, Schizophrenia, Working memory


Memantine and ketamine block N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors with similar affinity and kinetics, yet their behavioral consequences differ: e.g., memantine is used to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, whereas ketamine reproduces symptoms of schizophrenia. The two drugs exhibit different pharmacokinetics, which may play a principal role in their differential behavioral effects. To gain insight into the drugs' behavioral consequences, we treated adult male rats acutely with varying doses (0-40 mg/kg i.p.) of memantine or ketamine and assessed exploratory behavior and spatial working memory. To examine the importance of pharmacokinetics, we assessed behavior either 15 or 45 min after drug administration. Both drugs decreased ambulation, fine movements, and rearing at the beginning of the exploratory activity test; however, at the end of the test, high doses of only memantine increased ambulation and fine movements. High doses of both drugs disrupted spontaneous alternation, a measure of working memory, but high doses of only memantine elicited perseverative behavior. Surprisingly, ketamine's effects were influenced by the delay between drug administration and testing no more frequently than were memantine's. Our findings show that, regardless of test delay, memantine and ketamine evoke similar behavioral effects at lower doses, consistent with NMDA receptors being both drugs' principal site of action, but can have divergent effects at higher doses. Our results suggest that the divergence of memantine's and ketamine's behavioral consequences is likely to result from differences in mechanisms of NMDA receptor antagonism or actions at other targets. © 2013 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Open Access

Green Accepted