Clozapine, which is the most effective treatment option for treatment-refractory schizophrenia, has been reported to have both positive and negative effects on specific cognitive symptoms in patients with schizophrenia and in animal models of cognition. Clozapine has a major metabolite, N-desmethylclozapine (NDMC), which has been suggested to be more effective than clozapine itself to improve cognition. Enhancement of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression in the hippocampus has been proposed to contribute to the cognitive-enhancing effects of antipsychotic drugs. The aims of this study were to investigate the change in short and long term memory as assessed by the novel object recognition (NOR) test and BDNF expression in hippocampus produced by an acute hypoglutamatergic model of memory impairment in schizophrenia induced by administration of the NMDA receptor non-competitive antagonist, MK-801 and the ability of clozapine and NDMC to prevent the deleterious effects of MK-801. Both short (1 h) and long-term (24h) memory were impaired in MK-801 (0.1 mg/kg) - and clozapine (5 mg/kg)-, but not NDMC (5 mg/kg)-treated rats. Neither NDMC (5 mg/kg) nor clozapine (5 mg/kg) reversed the effect of MK-801. Western blotting studies showed that BDNF levels in hippocampus were not different in rats administered MK-801 alone, clozapine or NDMC alone. These results show that in this model clozapine affects memory negatively, while NDMC does not. The absence of impairment of NOR with NDMC is consistent with previous evidence that it has a more benign effect on cognition than does the parent compound, and may support the efforts to study its effects on other cognitive functions. These findings do not provide any support for the role of BDNF in the MK-801-induced impairment in NOR or for differences between clozapine and NDMC. (C) 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.