Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Robert Hamm


In addition to the acute pathology produced by traumatic brain injury, there are chronic alterations that occur after the trauma, including a depressed state of neuronal activity (Feeney, 1991). This study included a preclinical testing of a novel treatment strategy focusing on increasing neuronal activity during the chronic hypofunctional posttraumatic stage. The present investigation tested the effects of repeated post-injury aniracetam administration on cognitive performance in the Morris water maze (MWM) and on the GluR2 - immunoreactivity and protein expression by Western blot analysis in the hippocampus. The first study examined the optimal dose of aniracetam in the MWM task. Animals received aniracetam (25 mg/kg, 50 mg/kg) or vehicle once daily for fifteen days and on days 11-15 were tested in the MWM. The results indicated that injured aniracetam-treated rats had a significant improvement in MWM performance compared to injured saline-treated animals. When the drug was delayed for 11 days post-injury in the second experiment, its beneficial effects were still present, as injured aniracetam-treated rats performed significantly better that injured saline treated rats on the MWM task. In the third experiment, chronic daily aniracetam administration was terminated after 15 days immediately before MWM testing on days 16-20. The results indicated that termination of aniracetam did not enhance MWM performance as injured terminated aniracetam-treated rats did not have significant improvement over injured saline-treated rats. In the fourth study we investigated the mechanism of aniracetam's effects by examining the expression of the AMPA receptor GluR2 subunit, the only AMPA receptor subunit that is Ca++ impermeable. Using a monoclonal antibody selective for the GluR2 subunit, immunohistochemical results indicated that injured rats treated with aniracetam (50mg/kg for 15 days post-injury) had a slight reduction in the GluR2- IR. The fifth study investigated a change in the GluR2 protein expression in the hippocampus with a Western blot analysis. The results were consistent with the immunohistochemical study outcome as the injured vehicle and injured aniracetam treated animals showed a reduced protein expression in the hippocampus. The changes were not significantly different from the controls. The results of these experiments suggested that chronic aniracetam treatment significantly attenuated injury induced spatial memory deficits when administered continually during the hypofunctional posttraumatic stage and when the treatment was delayed for 11 days, but not when the treatment was terminated before the MWM testing. These effects suggest that the compound does not induce chronic receptor changes and has to be biologically active in an organism for it to exert its beneficial properties. Results from the present studies suggest that aniracetam may become a potential treatment option for brain injury induced cognitive deficits.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Psychology Commons