Effects of anterior cingulate cortex lesions on a continuous performance task for mice
Important tools in the study of prefrontal cortical-dependent executive functions are cross-species behavioural tasks with translational validity. A widely used test of executive function and attention in humans is the continuous performance task (CPT). Optimal performance in variations of this task is associated with activity along the medial wall of the prefrontal cortex, including the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), for its essential components such as response control, target detection and processing of false alarm errors. We assess the validity of a recently developed rodent touchscreen continuous performance task (rCPT) that is analogous to typical human CPT procedures. Here we evaluate the performance of mice with quinolinic acid-induced lesions centred on the ACC in the rCPT following a range of task parameter manipulations designed to challenge attention and impulse control. Lesioned mice showed a disinhibited response profile expressed as a decreased response criterion and increased false alarm rates. ACC lesions also resulted in a milder increase in inter-trial interval responses ('ITI touches') and hit rate. Lesions did not affect discriminative sensitivity d'. The disinhibited behaviour of ACC lesioned animals was stable and not affected by the manipulation of variable task parameter manipulations designed to increase task difficulty. The results are in general agreement with human studies implicating the ACC in the processing of inappropriate responses. We conclude that the rCPT may be useful for studying prefrontal cortex function in mice and has the capability of providing meaningful links between animal and human cognitive tasks.
The anterior insula bidirectionally modulates cost-benefit decision making on a rodent gambling task
Deficits in cost-benefit decision making, as assessed in the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), are commonly observed in neuropsychiatric disorders such as addiction. There is considerable variation in the maximisation of rewards on such tasks, both in the general population and in rodent models, suggesting individual differences in decision making may represent a key endophenotype for vulnerability to neuropsychiatric disorders. Increasing evidence suggests that the insular cortex, which is involved in interoception and emotional processes in humans, may be a key neural locus in the control of decision making processes. However, the extent to which the insula contributes to individual differences in cost-benefit decision making remains unknown. Using male Sprague-Dawley rats we first assessed individual differences in the performance over the course of a single session on a rodent analogue of the IGT (rGT). Rats were matched for their ability to maximise reward and received bilateral excitotoxic or sham lesions of the anterior insula cortex (AIC). Animals were subsequently challenged on a second rGT session with altered contingencies. Finally, animals were also assessed for instrumental conditioning and reversal learning. AIC lesions produced bidirectional alterations on rGT performance; rats that had performed optimally prior to surgery subsequently showed impairments, and animals that had performed poorly showed improvements in comparison to sham operated controls. These bidirectional effects were not attributable to alterations in behavioural flexibility or in motivation. These data suggest that the recruitment of the AIC during decision making may be state-dependent and help guide response selection toward subjectively favourable options.
MAM-E17 rat model impairments on a novel continuous performance task: effects of potential cognitive enhancing drugs
RATIONALE: Impairments in attention and inhibitory control are endophenotypic markers of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and represent key targets for therapeutic management. Robust preclinical models and assays sensitive to clinically relevant treatments are crucial for improving cognitive enhancement strategies. OBJECTIVES: We assessed a rodent model with neural and behavioral features relevant to schizophrenia (gestational day 17 methylazoxymethanol acetate treatment (MAM-E17)) on a novel test of attention and executive function, and examined the impact of putative nootropic drugs. METHODS: MAM-E17 and sham control rats were trained on a novel touchscreen-based rodent continuous performance test (rCPT) designed to closely mimic the human CPT paradigm. Performance following acute, systemic treatment with an array of pharmacological compounds was investigated. RESULTS: Two cohorts of MAM-E17 rats were impaired on rCPT performance including deficits in sensitivity (d') and increased false alarm rates (FARs). Sulpiride (0-30 mg/kg) dose-dependently reduced elevated FAR in MAM-E17 rats whereas low-dose modafinil (8 mg/kg) only improved d' in sham controls. ABT-594 (5.9-19.4 mug/kg) and modafinil (64 mg/kg) showed expected stimulant-like effects, while LSN2463359 (5 mg/kg), RO493858 (10 mg/kg), atomoxetine (0.3-1 mg/kg), and sulpiride (30 mg/kg) showed expected suppressant effects on performance across all animals. Donepezil (0.1-1 mg/kg) showed near-significant enhancements in d', and EVP-6124 (0.3-3 mg/kg) exerted no effects in the rCPT paradigm. CONCLUSION: The MAM-E17 model exhibits robust and replicable impairments in rCPT performance that resemble attention and inhibitory control deficits seen in schizophrenia. Pharmacological profiles were highly consistent with known drug effects on cognition in preclinical and clinical studies. The rCPT is a sensitive and reliable tool with high translational potential for understanding the etiology and treatment of disorders affecting attention and executive dysfunction.
Erratum to: The continuous performance test (rCPT) for mice: a novel operant touchscreen test of attentional function [Correction]
ROLE OF AUTS2 IN ETHANOL CONSUMPTION AND CHROMATIN DYNAMICS UNDERLYING NEURONAL GENE EXPRESSION [Meeting Abstract]
Trial-unique, delayed nonmatching-to-location (TUNL) touchscreen testing for mice: sensitivity to dorsal hippocampal dysfunction
RATIONALE: The hippocampus is implicated in many of the cognitive impairments observed in conditions such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) and schizophrenia (SCZ). Often, mice are the species of choice for models of these diseases and the study of the relationship between brain and behaviour more generally. Thus, automated and efficient hippocampal-sensitive cognitive tests for the mouse are important for developing therapeutic targets for these diseases, and understanding brain-behaviour relationships. One promising option is to adapt the touchscreen-based trial-unique nonmatching-to-location (TUNL) task that has been shown to be sensitive to hippocampal dysfunction in the rat. OBJECTIVES: This study aims to adapt the TUNL task for use in mice and to test for hippocampus-dependency of the task. METHODS: TUNL training protocols were altered such that C57BL/6 mice were able to acquire the task. Following acquisition, dysfunction of the dorsal hippocampus (dHp) was induced using a fibre-sparing excitotoxin, and the effects of manipulation of several task parameters were examined. RESULTS: Mice could acquire the TUNL task using training optimised for the mouse (experiments 1). TUNL was found to be sensitive to dHp dysfunction in the mouse (experiments 2, 3 and 4). In addition, we observed that performance of dHp dysfunction group was somewhat consistently lower when sample locations were presented in the centre of the screen. CONCLUSIONS: This study opens up the possibility of testing both mouse and rat models on this flexible and hippocampus-sensitive touchscreen task.
The NEWMEDS rodent touchscreen test battery for cognition relevant to schizophrenia
RATIONALE: The NEWMEDS initiative (Novel Methods leading to New Medications in Depression and Schizophrenia, http://www.newmeds-europe.com ) is a large industrial-academic collaborative project aimed at developing new methods for drug discovery for schizophrenia. As part of this project, Work package 2 (WP02) has developed and validated a comprehensive battery of novel touchscreen tasks for rats and mice for assessing cognitive domains relevant to schizophrenia. OBJECTIVES: This article provides a review of the touchscreen battery of tasks for rats and mice for assessing cognitive domains relevant to schizophrenia and highlights validation data presented in several primary articles in this issue and elsewhere. METHODS: The battery consists of the five-choice serial reaction time task and a novel rodent continuous performance task for measuring attention, a three-stimulus visual reversal and the serial visual reversal task for measuring cognitive flexibility, novel non-matching to sample-based tasks for measuring spatial working memory and paired-associates learning for measuring long-term memory. RESULTS: The rodent (i.e. both rats and mice) touchscreen operant chamber and battery has high translational value across species due to its emphasis on construct as well as face validity. In addition, it offers cognitive profiling of models of diseases with cognitive symptoms (not limited to schizophrenia) through a battery approach, whereby multiple cognitive constructs can be measured using the same apparatus, enabling comparisons of performance across tasks. CONCLUSION: This battery of tests constitutes an extensive tool package for both model characterisation and pre-clinical drug discovery.
A novel 2- and 3-choice touchscreen-based continuous trial-unique nonmatching-to-location task (cTUNL) sensitive to functional differences between dentate gyrus and CA3 subregions of the hippocampus
RATIONALE: The touchscreen continuous trial-unique non-matching-to-location task (cTUNL) has been developed to optimise a battery of tasks under NEWMEDS (Novel Methods leading to New Medication in Depression and Schizophrenia, http://www.newmeds-europe.com ). It offers novel task features of both a practical and a theoretical nature compared to existing touchscreen tasks for spatial working memory. OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to determine whether the cTUNL task is sufficiently sensitive to differentiate between dentate gyrus (DG) and CA3 hippocampal subregion contributions to performance. METHODS: The effect of DG and CA3 dysfunction on memory for locations in the cTUNL task was tested. Rats were assessed on versions of the task-two-choice and three-choice-that differed in memory load. Performance was challenged using manipulations of delay and the spatial separation between target and sample locations. RESULTS: Dysfunction of the DG disrupts performance across both delay and spatial separations in two-choice cTUNL when the delay is variable and unpredictable. Increasing the working memory load (three stimuli) increases sensitivity to DG dysfunction, with deficits apparent at fixed, short delays. In contrast, CA3 dysfunction did not disrupt performance. CONCLUSION: Acquisition of cTUNL was rapid, and the task was sensitive to manipulations of delays and separations. A three-choice version of the task was found to be viable. Finally, both the two- and three-choice versions of the task were able to differentiate between limited dysfunction to different areas within the hippocampus. DG dysfunction affected performance when using unpredictable task parameters. CA3 dysfunction did not result in impairment, even at the longest delays tested.
The continuous performance test (rCPT) for mice: a novel operant touchscreen test of attentional function
RATIONALE: Continuous performance tests (CPTs) are widely used to assess attentional processes in a variety of disorders including Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Common human CPTs require discrimination of sequentially presented, visually patterned 'target' and 'non-target' stimuli at a single location. OBJECTIVES: The aims of this study were to evaluate the performance of three popular mouse strains on a novel rodent touchscreen test (rCPT) designed to be analogous to common human CPT variants and to investigate the effects of donepezil, a cholinesterase inhibitor and putative cognitive enhancer. METHODS: C57BL/6J, DBA/2J and CD1 mice (n = 15-16/strain) were trained to baseline performance using four rCPT training stages. Then, probe tests assessed the effects of parameter changes on task performance: stimulus size, duration, contrast, probability, inter-trial interval or inclusion of flanker distractors. rCPT performance was also evaluated following acute administration of donepezil (0-3 mg/kg, i.p.). RESULTS: C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice showed similar acquisition rates and final baseline performance following rCPT training. On probe tests, rCPT performance of both strains was sensitive to alteration of visual and/or attentional demands (stimulus size, duration, contrast, rate, flanker distraction). Relative to C57BL/6J, DBA/2J mice exhibited (1) decreasing sensitivity (d') across the 45-min session, (2) reduced performance on probes where the appearance of stimuli or adjacent areas were changed (size, contrast, flanking distractors) and (3) larger dose- and stimulus duration-dependent changes in performance following donepezil administration. In contrast, CD1 mice failed to acquire rCPT (stage 3) and pairwise visual discrimination tasks. CONCLUSIONS: rCPT is a potentially useful translational tool for assessing attention in mice and for detecting the effects of nootropic drugs.
High Locomotor Reactivity to Novelty is Associated with an Increased Propensity to Choose Saccharin Over Cocaine: New Insights into the Vulnerability to Addiction
Drug addiction is associated with a relative devaluation of natural or socially-valued reinforcers that are unable to divert addicts from seeking and consuming the drug. Prior to protracted drug exposure, most rats prefer natural rewards, such as saccharin, over cocaine. However, a subpopulation of animals prefer cocaine over natural rewards and are thought to be vulnerable to addiction. Specific behavioural traits have been associated with different dimensions of drug addiction. For example, anxiety predicts loss of control over drug intake whereas sensation seeking and sign-tracking are markers of a greater sensitivity to the rewarding properties of the drug. However, how these behavioural traits predict the disinterest for natural reinforcers remain unknown. In a population of rats, we identified sensation seekers (HR) on the basis of elevated novelty-induced locomotor reactivity, high anxious rats (HA) based on the propensity to avoid open arms in an elevated-plus maze and sign-trackers (ST) that are prone to approach, and interaction with, reward-associated stimuli. Rats were then tested on their preference for saccharin over cocaine in a discrete-trial choice procedure. We show that HR rats display a greater preference for saccharin over cocaine compared to ST and HA whereas the motivation for the drug was comparable between the three groups. The present data suggest that high locomotor reactivity to novelty, or sensation seeking, by predisposing to an increased choice towards non-drug rewards at early stages of drug use history, may prevent the establishment of chronic cocaine use.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 14 August 2014; doi:10.1038/npp.2014.204.