Persistent impairment in cognitive functioning postoperatively is reported by clinical and animal studies, and is labeled as postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD). Evidence points to an exaggerated neuroinflammatory response resulting from peripheral systemic inflammation after surgery, with subsequent cytokine-induced glutamatergic excitotoxicity and synaptic impairment. These immunological changes, among many others, are also observed in Alzheimer’s disease. Memantine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) antagonist commonly used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. Surprisingly, little research exists on the role of memantine in preventing POCD. The purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of memantine on a spectrum of cognitive functions postoperatively. Mice were divided into 3 groups and each received treatment for 4 weeks. Placebo groups received a placebo then underwent either a sham procedure or a laparotomy procedure. The memantine group received memantine hydrochloride then underwent a laparotomy procedure. Cognitive tests were performed on postoperative days (POD) 1 and 7. Compared to sham-operated mice, placebo groups that underwent a laparotomy procedure showed impaired memory in the Morris water maze test, higher anxiety-like behavior in the open field and the elevated plus maze tests, increased depression-like behavior in the tail suspension test, and lack of preference for social novelty in the three-chamber test. On the other hand, memantine-treated mice that underwent a laparotomy procedure showed enhanced memory on POD7, improved depression-like behavior on POD1 and POD7, enhanced preference for social novelty on POD1, and no improvement in anxiety-like behavior. These findings suggest a potential protective effect of memantine in mice postoperatively on memory, depression-like behavior, and preference for social novelty.
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