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Assessment of working memory in rats using spatial alternation behavior with variable retention intervals: effects of fixed-ratio size and scopolamine

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The effects of fixed-ratio (FR) size, scopolamine, and the interactions between FR size and scopolamine were investigated in male F344 rats on working memory as assessed by spatial alternation behavior maintained under FR schedules of food presentation where the interval between trials was varied among values of 2, 4, 8, 16, and 32 s within each session. The magnitude of the FR size on the correct and incorrect levers was varied systematically from 1 response to 2, 4, 8, or 16 responses in order to determine whether the FR size influenced either the percentage of correct responding, rates of responding, or both. Under the primary baseline condition, that is when the FR size on both the correct and incorrect levers was one response (designated FR1 FR1), the percentage of correct responses decreased with increasing retention interval duration. Increasing the FR size on the correct lever produced FR-dependent increases in the percentage of correct responding as well as in rates of responding. Increasing the FR size on the incorrect lever produced FR-dependent decreases in correct responding, but had little effect on rates of responding. Dose-effect curves for scopolamine were determined on performance maintained under FR values on the correct and incorrect levers, respectively, of FR1 FR1, FR1 FR10, FR10 FR1, and FR10 FR10. In general, scopolamine produced dose-related decreases in the percentage of correct responding, although the magnitude of the effects of scopolamine varied not only with dose, but also with the length of the retention interval and with changes in FR size. Rates of responding during trials were dose-dependently decreased by scopolamine under all schedule parameters. The present results are consistent with the interpretation that scopolamine can selectively impair time-dependent memory processes such as working memory, but also can impair time-independent variables which affect performance, dependent on dose and schedule maintaining the behavior.

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Correspondence to Harlan E. Shannon.

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Shannon, H.E., Bemis, K.G. & Hart, J.C. Assessment of working memory in rats using spatial alternation behavior with variable retention intervals: effects of fixed-ratio size and scopolamine. Psychopharmacology 100, 491–497 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02244001

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Key words

  • Working memory
  • Spatial alternation behavior
  • Scopolamine
  • Fixed-ratio size
  • Rats