Drug-drug conditioning between citalopram and haloperidol or olanzapine in a conditioned avoidance response model: Implications for polypharmacy in schizophrenia

Nathan L. Sparkman, Ming Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Patients with schizophrenia often have anxiety and depression, and thus are treated with multiple psychotherapeutic medications. This practice of polypharmacy increases the possibility for drug-drug interactions. However, the pharmacological and behavioral mechanisms underlying drug-drug interactions in schizophrenia remain poorly understood. In the present study, we adopted a preclinical approach and examined a less known behavioral mechanism, drug-drug conditioning (DDC) between haloperidol (a typical antipsychotic) or olanzapine (atypical antipsychotic) and citalopram (a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor). A rat two-way conditioned avoidance response paradigm was used to measure antipsychotic activity and determine how DDC may alter the antipsychotic efficacy in this model. Following acquisition of the avoidance response, rats were then randomly assigned to receive vehicle, citalopram (10.0 mg/kg, intraperitoneally), haloperidol (0.05 mg/kg, subcutaneously), olanzapine (1.0 mg/kg, subcutaneously), combined haloperidol with citalopram, or combined olanzapine with citalopram treatment for seven avoidance test sessions. In comparison with antipsychotic treatment alone, combined treatment with citalopram potentiated the antiavoidance effect of olanzapine or haloperidol (to a lesser extent) during the seven drug-test sessions. In addition, repeated pairing of citalopram with haloperidol or olanzapine caused citalopram to show a newly acquired avoidance-disruptive effect. This effect was context specific because citalopram paired with haloperidol or olanzapine outside the avoidance testing context (i.e. home cages) did not show such an effect. These findings indicate that concurrent antidepressant and antipsychotic treatments may engender a DDC process that follows the general Pavlovian associative conditioning principles. They also indicate that adjunctive citalopram treatment may enhance the antipsychotic efficacy of haloperidol and olanzapine in the treatment of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)658-668
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioural pharmacology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Pavlovian conditioning
  • citalopram
  • depression
  • drug-drug conditioning
  • haloperidol
  • olanzapine
  • polypharmacy
  • rat
  • schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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