Assessment of Sustained and Divided Attention in Rats

H. Moore Arnold1, John P. Bruno2, Martin Sarter2

1 Sention Pharmaceutical, Providence, Rhode Island, 2 The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio
Publication Name:  Current Protocols in Neuroscience
Unit Number:  Unit 8.5E
DOI:  10.1002/0471142301.ns0805es22
Online Posting Date:  May, 2003
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Behavioral tasks must be evaluated in terms of the cognitive functions they require in order to be performed. All of the tasks described in this chapter can be used with each of four experimental manipulations: stimulation of a single brain region by drugs or small electrical current, impairment of normal function by production of a lesion or administration of appropriate pharmacological agents, recording of brain activity during the performance of a specific behavioral task, or behavioral phenotyping of transgenic and knockout mice for genes expressed in specific brain regions. This unit describes protocols for the radial arm maze task and the water maze task, both of which require intact spatial memory abilities.

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Table of Contents

  • Basic Protocol 1: Sustained Attention Task in Rats
  • Alternate Protocol 1: Divided Attention Task in Rats
  • Commentary
  • Figures
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Basic Protocol 1: Sustained Attention Task in Rats

  • 8 to 10 naïve adult rats (per treatment group)
  • Sound‐attenuated operant chambers (Med Associates or equivalent) equipped with two retractable levers, houselight (2.8 W), food dispenser (or a water dispenser), panel light (2.8 W), and 2900‐Hz tone generator
  • Computer software package to control operant boxes and record data (typically available from the operant box vendor, e.g., Med Associates)
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Literature Cited

Literature Cited
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   McGaughy, J., Turchi, J., and Sarter, M. 1994. Crossmodal divided attention in rats: Effects of chlordiazepoxide and scopolamine. Psychopharmacology 115:213‐220.
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Key References
   McGaughy and Sarter, 1995. See above.
  Describes the sustained attention task and experimentally examines a number of the parameters controlling performance of this task.
   McGaughy et al., 1994. See above.
  Describes the initial experiments that used a cross‐modal divided attention task.
   Sarter et al., 2001. See above.
  A review of the neuronal circuits mediating sustained attention performance.
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