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Scopolamine and amphetamine produce similar decision-making deficits on a rat gambling task via independent pathways

Lookup NU author(s): Emma Malcolm, Dr Mohammed Shoaib


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Disorders characterized by disturbed cholinergic signaling, such as schizophrenia, exhibit impaired performance on measures of real-world cost/benefit decision-making. Whether the cholinergic system contributes to the choice deficits observed is currently unknown.We therefore determined the effects of broad-acting agonists and antagonists at the nicotinic and muscarinic receptor on decision making, as measured by the rodent gambling task (rGT). Given the anatomical and functional connectivity of the cholinergic and dopaminergic systems, we also sought to modulate amphetamine's previously reported effect on rGT performance via the cholinergic system. Male rats were trained on the rGT, during which animals chose from four different options. The optimal strategy on the rGT is to favor options associated with smaller immediate rewards and less punishment/loss. Impulsive action was also measured by recording the number of premature responses made. Performance on the rGT was assessed following acute treatment with the muscarinic receptor agonist oxotremorine, the muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine, nicotine, and the nicotinic receptor antagonist mecamylamine. Similar to the effect produced by amphetamine, muscarinic receptor antagonism with scopolamine (0.1 mg/kg) impaired decision making, albeit to a lesser degree. Prior muscarinic agonism with oxotremorine was unable to attenuate amphetamine's effects on rGT performance. Oxotremorine, nicotine, and mecamylamine did not affect the choice profile. We therefore conclude that modulation of the muscarinic, but not nicotinic, receptor system can affect decision making under conditions of risk and uncertainty. Such findings contribute to a broader understanding of the cognitive deficits observed in disorders in which cholinergic signaling is compromised. (C) 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Silveira MM, Malcolm E, Shoaib M, Winstanley CA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Behavioural Brain Research

Year: 2015

Volume: 281

Pages: 86-95

Print publication date: 15/03/2015

Online publication date: 18/12/2014

Acceptance date: 11/12/2014

ISSN (print): 0166-4328

ISSN (electronic): 1872-7549

Publisher: Elsevier


DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.12.029


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Funder referenceFunder name
CIHR New Investigator Award program
Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
08-1148Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)