Psychopharmacology

, Volume 221, Issue 3, pp 437–449 | Cite as

The pharmacological sensitivity of a touchscreen-based visual discrimination task in the rat using simple and perceptually challenging stimuli

  • J. C. Talpos
  • A. C. Fletcher
  • C. Circelli
  • M. D. Tricklebank
  • S. L. Dix
Original Investigation

Abstract

Rationale

Cognitive testing with touchscreen-equipped operant boxes (‘touchscreens’) is becoming increasingly popular. Tasks, such as paired associate learning or reversal learning of visual stimuli, have the discrimination of visual stimuli as a fundamental component. However, the effect of drugs commonly used in the study of cognitive mechanisms has yet to be described in a visual discrimination.

Objective

The objective of the study was to profile a range of psychoactive agents (glutamatergic, dopaminergic, and cholinergic agonists and antagonists) known to be important in cognitive processing on visual discrimination performance using a touch sensitive computer monitor.

Methods

Male Lister Hooded rats were trained to a stable level of performance in a simple visual discrimination. In Experiment 1, the effect of MK-801, phencyclidine, memantine, dextroamphetamine sulphate (d-amphetamine) and scopolamine was assessed. In Experiment 2, the stimuli were blended together resulting in a perceptually more demanding discrimination and a reduction in accuracy. The rats used in Experiment 1 were then retested with these ‘morphed’ stimuli under the influence of the above compounds.

Results

MK-801, PCP, and d-amphetamine induced selective deficits in accuracy in both versions of the task. In contrast, scopolamine and memantine produced non-selective deficits in accuracy. Morphing the stimuli reduced accuracy, but did not alter the observed behavioural profile after compound administration.

Conclusion

These data improve our understanding of the basic neuropharmacology of a visual discrimination in cognitive tests employing touchscreens and will aid in the interpretation of pharmacological studies with more cognitively demanding methodologies.

Keywords

MK-801 PCP d-Amphetamine Scopolamine Memantine Rat Touchscreen Visual discrimination Schizophrenia Perception 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. C. Talpos
    • 2
  • A. C. Fletcher
    • 1
  • C. Circelli
    • 1
  • M. D. Tricklebank
    • 1
  • S. L. Dix
    • 1
  1. 1.Lilly Research LaboratoriesEli Lilly & Co. LtdWindleshamUK
  2. 2.Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & JohnsonBeerseBelgium

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