A novel spatial environment consists of several different types of information that may be encoded by cellular information storage mechanisms such as long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). Arousal, mediated, for example, by activation of the noradrenergic system, is a critical factor in information acquisition and may enhance the encoding of novel spatial information. Using electrophysiological recordings of hippocampal responses in freely moving rats during spatial learning, we investigated the role of the β-adrenoreceptor in Schaeffer collateral–CA1 synaptic plasticity. We found that novel exploration of spatial context facilitates induction of LTD that is inhibited by intracerebroventricular application of the β-adrenoreceptor antagonist, propranolol. Long-lasting homosynaptic LTD, that was electrically induced by low-frequency stimulation, was unaffected by the antagonist. Although application of a β-adrenoreceptor agonist (isoproterenol) did not affect electrically induced LTD, agonist application facilitated short-term depression (STD) into LTD and mimicked the augmentation, through spatial exploration, of STD into LTD. Exploration of a novel empty environment facilitated LTP that was prevented by application of propranolol. These results suggest that β-adrenoreceptors may facilitate encoding of spatial information through synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus and that noradrenaline is a key factor in effective information acquisition.

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