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Evidence that the attentional set shifting test in rats can be applied in repeated testing paradigms

Lookup NU author(s): Joanne Wallace, Professor Richard McQuade, Dr Sasha Gartside


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The attentional set shifting task (ASST) can be used to assess aspects of executive function, including reversal learning and set shifting. It has frequently been employed in between-subjects experimental designs: however, the clear advantages of within-subjects designs (reduction in variance, animal numbers, and cost) mean that investigation of the suitability of the ASST for within subjects designs is warranted. Rats were tested three times: test 1 (24 h after training), test 2 (24 h later), and test 3 (seven days later). On all three test days, animals showed the expected pattern of performance across the seven task stages with evidence of normal reversal learning (significant increase in trials to criterion when the rule was reversed) and intact set formation (significantly more trials to criterion for an extradimensional shift than for an intradimensional shift). There was a small decrease in total trials required to complete the task between test 1 and test 3 but this was not specific to any stage of the task. Latency to dig decreased on repeated testing suggesting some facilitation of associative learning. In conclusion, the rodent ASST is suitable for within-subject design longitudinal studies, increasing the utility and the translational value of this test and reducing numbers of animals needed in studies.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wallace J, Marston HM, McQuade R, Gartside SE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Psychopharmacology

Year: 2014

Volume: 28

Issue: 7

Pages: 691-696

Print publication date: 30/04/2014

ISSN (print): 0269-8811

ISSN (electronic): 1461-7285

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/0269881114531663


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