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Behav Neurosci. 2015 Apr;129(2):105-12. doi: 10.1037/bne0000045.

Conditional loss of GluN2B in cortex and hippocampus impairs attentional set formation.

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Department of Neurosciences, University of New Mexico School of Medicine.
Laboratory of Behavioral and Genomic Neuroscience, National Institutes of Health.


The ability to attend to appropriate stimuli, to plan actions and then alter those actions when environmental conditions change, is essential for an organism to thrive. There is increasing evidence that these executive control processes are mediated in part by N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR). NMDAR subunits confer different physiological properties to the receptor, interact with distinct intracellular postsynaptic scaffolding and signaling molecules and are differentially expressed during development. Recent findings have suggested that the GluN2B subunit may play a unique role in both the acquisition of adaptive choice and the behavioral flexibility required to shift between choices. Here we investigated the role of GluN2B containing NMDARs in the ability to learn, reverse and shift between stimulus dimensions. Mutant mice (floxed-GluN2B x CaMKII-Cre) lacking GluN2B in the dorsal CA1 of the hippocampus and throughout the cortex were tested on an attentional set-shifting task. To explore the role that alterations in motor behavior may have on these behaviors, gross and fine motor behaviors were analyzed in mutant and floxed-control mice. Results show that corticohippocampal loss of GluN2B selectively impaired an initial reversal in a stimulus specific manner and impaired the ability of mutant mice to form an attentional set. Further, GluN2B mice showed normal motor behavior in both overall movement and individual limb behaviors. Together, these results further support the role of NMDAR, and GluN2B in particular, in aspects of executive control including behavioral flexibility and attentional processes.

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