, Volume 129, Issue 2, pp 135-140

Effect of ethanol on sustained attention in rats

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Abstract

 Acute exposure to ethanol produces deficits in sustained attention in humans, but these attentional deficits have not been modeled in animals. In this study, an operant task was used to investigate the effects of low and moderate doses of ethanol on sustained attention in rats. Performance on a two-choice reaction time task over a 1-h session was assessed immediately following administration of ethanol (0.0, 0.5, 0.75, 1.0 and 1.5 g/kg IP). Each rat was required to respond to a light stimulus of variable duration (20, 100, and 500 ms) occurring at one of two locations. Under control and saline conditions, increases in stimulus length systematically increased choice accuracy and decreased reaction time. Ethanol produced a dose-dependent decrease in choice accuracy that interacted with time, with an initial impairment that was stimulus length-dependent followed by a general vigilance decrement. The data demonstrate that ethanol impaired the ability of rats to direct and sustain attention to brief, infrequent stimuli, and provide a model for further investigations into the underlying neurobiological mechanisms for ethanol-induced attentional deficits.

Received: 19 March 1996 / Final version: 30 August 1996