Impaired cliff avoidance reaction in dopamine transporter knockout mice

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Impulsivity is a key feature of disorders that include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The cliff avoidance reaction (CAR) assesses maladaptive impulsive rodent behavior. Dopamine transporter knockout (DAT-KO) mice display features of ADHD and are candidates in which to test other impulsive phenotypes.


Impulsivity of DAT-KO mice was assessed in the CAR paradigm. For comparison, attentional deficits were also assessed in prepulse inhibition (PPI) in which DAT-KO mice have been shown to exhibit impaired sensorimotor gating.


DAT-KO mice exhibited a profound CAR impairment compared to wild-type (WT) mice. As expected, DAT-KO mice showed PPI deficits compared to WT mice. Furthermore, the DAT-KO mice with the most impaired CAR exhibited the most severe PPI deficits. Treatment with methylphenidate or nisoxetine ameliorated CAR impairments in DAT-KO mice.


These results suggest that DAT-KO mice exhibit impulsive CAR behavior that correlates with their PPI deficits. Blockade of monoamine transporters, especially the norepinephrine transporter (NET) in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), may contribute to pharmacological improvement of impulsivity in these mice.

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This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Health and Labour Science Research (Research on Pharmaceutical and Medical Safety) from MHLW of Japan; by Grants-in-Aid for Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST), Global COE Program (Basic & Translational Research Center for Global Brain Science) from MEXT of Japan and through funding from the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH/DHHS, USA (GRU and FSH). All animal experiments were performed in accordance with the guidelines of the Animal Ethics Committee at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine (Sendai, Japan). No authors have any other conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to make.

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Correspondence to Ichiro Sora.

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Yamashita, M., Sakakibara, Y., Hall, F.S. et al. Impaired cliff avoidance reaction in dopamine transporter knockout mice. Psychopharmacology 227, 741–749 (2013).

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  • Dopamine transporter knockout mice
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Cliff avoidance reaction
  • Prepulse inhibition of acoustic startle response
  • Behavioral inhibition
  • Impulsivity