Journal of clinical psychopharmacology

Event-related brain potentials and working memory function in healthy humans after single-dose and prolonged intranasal administration of adrenocorticotropin 4-10 and desacetyl-alpha-melanocyte stimulating hormone.

PMID 10917406


Neuropeptides of the adrenocorticotropin/melanocorticotropin (ACTH/MSH) family are most potent modulators of cognitive function. Their neurobehavioral activity is principally encoded in the 4-10 fragment of the ACTH/MSH molecule; in humans, it has been shown to pertain primarily to functions of attentive stimulus/response processing. The aims of this study were (1) to examine the effects of ACTH 4-10 on event-related brain potentials (ERPs) and behavioral indicators of stimulus encoding within the working memory; (2) to compare the effects after a single dose and after prolonged treatment with ACTH 4-10; and (3) to compare the effects of ACTH 4-10 with those of desacetyl-alpha-MSH (i.e., ACTH 1-13 amide), which, like ACTH 4-10, binds to the known brain melanocortin receptors (MC-Rs) but with distinctly higher affinity. Double-blind, placebo-controlled experiments were performed in 60 healthy control subjects. The authors monitored ERPs and reaction times while these subjects performed an auditory vigilance task ("oddball"). Recall was tested on a verbal short-term memory task including different word categories (neutral, rare, food, sex). After a single (1 mg) as well as prolonged intranasal administration (1 mg/day over a period of 6 weeks), ACTH 4-10 enhanced the positive slow wave in ERPs to target stimuli of the vigilance task (p < 0.05), but left classic P3 unaffected. Moreover, single-dose and prolonged administration of ACTH 4-10 increased the rate of false responses during vigilance (p < 0.01). In the short term, ACTH 4-10 also impaired recall of neutral words (p < 0.05). Equimolar doses of desacetyl-alpha-MSH did not influence ERPs, neither after a single dose nor after prolonged treatment. Similar to ACTH 4-10, desacetyl-alpha-MSH increased the error rate during vigilance and acutely impaired the recall of neutral words. The increase in ERP slow-wave positivity, in conjunction with behavioral impairments after treatment with ACTH 4-10, complemented previous results of inferior focusing of attention and a less concise structure of thought after administration of ACTH 4-10. The changes indicated an impairment in differential processing of relevant versus irrelevant contents within the working memory, and, in this regard, might mimic aspects of psychopathologic disturbances of attention and thought processes. Their persistence after prolonged treatment with ACTH 4-10 suggests an activation of mechanisms subserving the consolidation of the peptide's effects. The poor efficacy of desacetyl-alpha-MSH suggests that the known MC-Rs may be irrelevant for mediating cognitive effects of this neuropeptide family.

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Adrenocorticotropic Hormone Fragment 4-10 human, rat, ≥97% (HPLC)