, Volume 182, Issue 4, pp 579–587 | Cite as

Attentional and motivational deficits in rats withdrawn from intravenous self-administration of cocaine or heroin

  • Jeffrey W. Dalley
  • Kristjan Lääne
  • Yolanda Pena
  • David E. H. Theobald
  • Barry J. Everitt
  • Trevor W. Robbins
Original Investigation



Identifying the long-term neurocognitive sequelae of drug addiction may have important implications for understanding the compulsive, chronically relapsing nature of this brain disorder.


Our aim was to investigate the consequences of chronic intravenous self-administration of cocaine or heroin on visual attentional processes in rats.


Adult male rats were pretrained on a five-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT) of sustained visual attention and impulsivity and later trained to self-administer cocaine or heroin intravenously during multiple ‘long-access’ self-administration cycles. Control rats had identical training and surgical experience, but received passive infusions of saline during self-administration sessions. Executive cognitive processes of selection and inhibitory response control were evaluated 24 h after drug discontinuation and for a further 6 days prior to the next cycle of self-administration.


Findings indicate similar behavioural disturbances on the five-choice task in cocaine- and heroin-withdrawn rats with significantly impaired attentional accuracy, increased omissions and slower latencies to respond correctly during the early, but not late, withdrawal period. The self-administration of either drug was not associated with significant alterations in impulsive actions, and there was no evidence of persistent alterations in visual attentional performance. However, unlike rats self-administering cocaine, the motivation to collect food reward on the 5-CSRTT was significantly reduced in heroin-withdrawn animals for a period of at least 6 weeks.


These data, together with recent findings of attentional dysfunction during the withdrawal of intravenous self-administration of amphetamine, suggest that generically different drugs of abuse produce similar disturbances in visual attentional performance during the early withdrawal period.


Cognitive sequelae Drug addiction Visual attention Five-choice serial reaction time task Impulsivity Psychostimulants Opiates 



This study was supported by the Wellcome Trust within the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre for Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey W. Dalley
    • 1
  • Kristjan Lääne
    • 1
  • Yolanda Pena
    • 1
  • David E. H. Theobald
    • 1
  • Barry J. Everitt
    • 1
  • Trevor W. Robbins
    • 1
  1. 1.MRC Centre for Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience, Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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