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Prog Brain Res. 2008;172:517-42. doi: 10.1016/S0079-6123(08)00925-4.

Serotonergic and dopaminergic modulation of attentional processes.

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Department of Experimental Psychology, Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute (BCNI), University of Cambridge, CB2 3EB, Cambridge, UK.


Disturbances in attentional processes are a common feature of several psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Huntington's disease. The use of animal models has been useful in defining various candidate neural systems thus enabling us to translate basic laboratory science to the clinic and vice-versa. In this chapter, a comparative and integrated account is provided on the neuroanatomical and neurochemical modulation of basic behavioural operations such as selective attention, vigilance, set-shifting and executive control focusing on the comparative functions of the serotonin and dopamine systems in the cognitive control exerted by the prefrontal cortex. Specifically, we have reviewed evidence emerging from several behavioural paradigms in experimental animals and humans each of which centres on a different aspect of the attentional function. These paradigms offering both human and animal variants include the five-choice serial reaction time task (5CSRTT), attentional set-shifting and stop-signal reaction time task. In each case, the types of operation that are measured by the given paradigm and their neural correlates are defined. Then, the role of the ascending dopaminergic and serotonergic systems in the neurochemical modulation of its behavioural output are examined, and reference is made to clinical implications for neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders which exhibit deficits in these cognitive tests.

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