Selective stimulation of carotid chemoreceptors by intravenous infusion of low doses of potassium cyanide (KCN) produces short-lasting escape responses that have been proposed as a model of panic attack. In turn, preclinical studies suggest that facilitation of the endocannabinoid system attenuate panic-like responses. Here, we compared the effects of cannabinoid-related compounds to those of alprazolam, a clinically effective panicolytic, on the duration of the escape reaction induced by intravenous infusion of KCN (80μg) in rats. Alprazolam (1, 2, 4mg/kg) decreased escape duration at doses that did not alter basal locomotor activity. URB597 (0.1, 0.3, 1mg/kg; inhibitor of anandamide hydrolysis), WIN55,212-2 (0.1, 0.3, 1mg/kg; synthetic cannabinoid), arachidonoyl-serotonin (1, 2.5, 5mg/kg; dual TRPV1 and anandamide hydrolysis inhibitor), and cannabidiol (5, 10, 20, 40mg/kg; a phytocannabinoid) did not decrease escape duration. Alprazolam also prevented the increase in arterial pressure evoked by KCN, while bradycardia was unchanged. This study reinforces the validity of the KCN-evoked escape as a model of panic attack. However, it does not support a role for the endocannabinoid system in this behavioral response. These results might have implications for the screening of novel treatments for panic disorder.
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