Behavioural Brain Research
The medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays a major role in executive function by exerting a top-down control onto subcortical areas. Novelty-induced frontal cortex activation is 5-HT2A receptor (5-HT2AR) dependent. Here, we further investigated how blockade of 5-HT2ARs in mice exposed to a novel open-field arena affects medial PFC activation and basolateral amygdala (BLA) reactivity. We used c-Fos immunoreactivity (IR) as a marker of neuronal activation and stereological quantification for obtaining the total number of c-Fos-IR neurons as a measure of regional activation. We further examined the impact of 5-HT2AR blockade on the striatal-projecting BLA neurons. Systemic administration of ketanserin (0.5mg/kg) prior to novel open-field exposure resulted in reduced total numbers of c-Fos-IR cells in dorsomedial PFC areas and the BLA. Moreover, there was a positive correlation between the relative time spent in the centre of the open-field and BLA c-Fos-IR in the ketanserin-treated animals. Unilateral medial PFC lesions blocked this effect, ascertaining an involvement of this frontal cortex area. On the other hand, medial PFC lesioning exacerbated the more anxiogenic-like behaviour of the ketanserin-treated animals, upholding its involvement in modulating averseness. Ketanserin did not affect the number of activated striatal-projecting BLA neurons (measured by number of Cholera Toxin b (CTb) retrograde labelled neurons also being c-Fos-IR) following CTb injection in the ventral striatum. These results support a role of 5-HT2AR activation in modulating mPFC and BLA activation during exposure to a novel environment, which may be interrelated. Conversely, 5-HT2AR blockade does not seem to affect the amygdala-striatal projection.