Vasopressin (AVP)-deficient Brattleboro rats develop a specific behavioral profile, which-among other things-include altered cognitive performance. This profile is markedly affected by alterations in neuroendocrine state of the animal such as during lactation. Given the links between AVP and cognition we hypothesized that AVP deficiency may lead to changes in impulsivity that is under cognitive control and the changes might be altered by lactation. Comparing virgin and lactating AVP-deficient female Brattleboro rats to their respective controls, we assessed the putative lactation-dependent effects of AVP deficiency on impulsivity in the delay discounting paradigm. Furthermore, to investigate the basis of such effects, we assessed possible interactions of AVP deficiency with GABAergic and serotonergic signaling and stress axis activity, systems playing important roles in impulse control. Our results showed that impulsivity was unaltered by AVP deficiency in virgin rats. In contrast a lactation-induced increase in impulsivity was abolished by AVP deficiency in lactating females. We also found that chlordiazepoxide-induced facilitation of GABAergic and imipramine-induced enhancement of serotonergic activity in virgins led to increased and decreased impulsivity, respectively. In contrast, during lactation these effects were visible only in AVP-deficient rats. These rats also exhibited increased stress axis activity compared to virgin animals, an effect that was abolished by AVP deficiency. Taken together, AVP appears to play a role in the regulation of impulsivity exclusively during lactation: it has an impulsivity increasing effect which is potentially mediated via stress axis-dependent mechanisms and fine-tuning of GABAergic and serotonergic function.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
- Behavioral Neuroscience