Yeung M, Treit D, Dickson CT
Neuropharmacology 2012 Jan;62(1):155-60
Hippocampal theta rhythms have been associated with a number of behavioural processes, including learning, memory and arousal. Recently it has been argued that the suppression of hippocampal theta is a valid indicator of anxiolytic drug action. Like all such models, however, it has relied almost exclusively on the experimental effects of well-known, clinically proven anxiolytic compounds for validation. The actual predictive validity of putative models of anxiolytic drug action, however, cannot be rigorously tested with this approach alone. The present study provides a stringent test of the predictive validity of the theta suppression model, using the drug phenytoin (50 mg/kg and 10 mg/kg), and a positive comparison compound, diazepam (2 mg/kg). Phenytoin has two important properties that are advantageous for assessing the validity of the theta suppression model: 1) it is a standard antiepileptic drug with no known anxiolytic effects, and 2) its primary mechanism of action is through suppression of the persistent sodium current, an effect that should also suppress hippocampal theta. Because of the latter property, we also directly compared the effects of phenytoin in the theta suppression model with its effects in the most widely tested behavioural model of anxiolytic drug action, the elevated plus-maze. While an anxiolytic-like effect of phenytoin in the theta suppression model might be expected simply due to its suppressive effects on sodium channel currents, anxiolytic effects in both tests would provide strong support for the predictive validity of the theta suppression model. Surprisingly, phenytoin produced clear anxiolytic-like effects in both neurophysiological and behavioural models, thus providing strong evidence of the predictive validity of the theta suppression model. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Anxiety and Depression’.