Pharmacological Enhancement of Memory and Executive Functioning in Laboratory Animals
Investigating how different pharmacological compounds may enhance learning, memory, and higher-order cognitive functions in laboratory animals is the first critical step toward the development of cognitive enhancers that may be used to ameliorate impairments in these functions in patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders. Rather than focus on one aspect of cognition, or class of drug, in this review we provide a broad overview of how distinct classes of pharmacological compounds may enhance different types of memory and executive functioning, particularly those mediated by the prefrontal cortex. These include recognition memory, attention, working memory, and different components of behavioral flexibility. A key emphasis is placed on comparing and contrasting the effects of certain drugs on different cognitive and mnemonic functions, highlighting methodological issues associated with this type of research, tasks used to investigate these functions, and avenues for future research. Viewed collectively, studies of the neuropharmacological basis of cognition in rodents and non-human primates have identified targets that will hopefully open new avenues for the treatment of cognitive disabilities in persons affected by mental disorders.