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PLoS One. 2009;4(1):e4227. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0004227. Epub 2009 Jan 19.

The 5-choice continuous performance test: evidence for a translational test of vigilance for mice.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America.



Attentional dysfunction is related to functional disability in patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and Alzheimer's disease. Indeed, sustained attention/vigilance is among the leading targets for new medications designed to improve cognition in schizophrenia. Although vigilance is assessed frequently using the continuous performance test (CPT) in humans, few tests specifically assess vigilance in rodents.


We describe the 5-choice CPT (5C-CPT), an elaboration of the 5-choice serial reaction (5CSR) task that includes non-signal trials, thus mimicking task parameters of human CPTs that use signal and non-signal events to assess vigilance. The performances of C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice were assessed in the 5C-CPT to determine whether this task could differentiate between strains. C57BL/6J mice were also trained in the 5CSR task and a simple reaction-time (RT) task involving only one choice (1CRT task). We hypothesized that: 1) C57BL/6J performance would be superior to DBA/2J mice in the 5C-CPT as measured by the sensitivity index measure from signal detection theory; 2) a vigilance decrement would be observed in both strains; and 3) RTs would increase across tasks with increased attentional load (1CRT task<5CSR task<5C-CPT).


C57BL/6J mice exhibited superior SI levels compared to DBA/2J mice, but with no difference in accuracy. A vigilance decrement was observed in both strains, which was more pronounced in DBA/2J mice and unaffected by response bias. Finally, we observed increased RTs with increased attentional load, such that 1CRT task<5CSR task<5C-CPT, consistent with human performance in simple RT, choice RT, and CPT tasks. Thus we have demonstrated construct validity for the 5C-CPT as a measure of vigilance that is analogous to human CPT studies.

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