Two experiments were carried out to evaluate the effects of amphetamine withdrawal in rats on spatial learning in the water maze. A schedule of repeated d-amphetamine administration lasting for 6 days, with three injections per day (1-5 mg/kg, i.p.), was employed. Experiment 1 demonstrated that amphetamine withdrawal did not impair the acquisition of the water maze task (third to fourth withdrawal days), but amphetamine-withdrawn rats made more target-zone visits and reached the former location of the platform quicker than controls during the probe test (fifth withdrawal day). In experiment 2, retention of the location of the escape platform was assessed in animals having been pre-trained on the water maze task before treatment. On the third withdrawal day, retention of the former platform location was assessed in a probe test. Retention was only clearly seen in the measure of target zone visits, and performance did not differ between groups. Next, the animals were trained to escape to a new location in the water maze on withdrawal days 4-5. A reversal effect could be discerned across the first four trials, as evident by the animals' tendency to search in the former target quadrant. This interfered with the new learning, but amphetamine-withdrawn animals appeared to overcome it more rapidly than saline-treated controls. This finding is consistent with the view that amphetamine withdrawal can enhance behavioural switching, which could be expressed as a reduction of proactive interference during learning; and, it is in line with our previous finding that latent inhibition is also attenuated during amphetamine withdrawal.
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