N-Methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are implicated in a wide range of complex behavioral functions, including cognitive activity. Numerous studies have shown that using the repetitive administration of a noncompetitive NMDA receptor antagonist, MK-801, induces amnesia in rodents. In this study, the effect of a subchronic MK-801 treatment on the cognitive function of zebrafish was evaluated using a novel inhibitory avoidance task. First, we established a new system to investigate the inhibitory avoidance learning of zebrafish where they were trained to refrain from swimming from a shallow compartment to a deep compartment in order to avoid electric shock. Second, we found that blocking NMDA receptors by MK-801 could significantly attenuate the inhibitory avoidance behavior of the zebrafish and alter the telencephalic extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation level 90 min after the inhibitory avoidance training. These results suggest that the formation of long-term emotional memory is possibly mediated by ERK activation in the telencephalon of zebrafish.
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