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Neurotoxicol Teratol. 1996 Jan-Feb;18(1):3-15.

An in-depth analysis of lead effects in a delayed spatial alternation task: assessment of mnemonic effects, side bias, and proactive interference.

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Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-6301, USA.


This study examined the effects of chronic postweaning lead (Pb) exposure in Long-Evans rats on a series of spatial alternation tasks. All tasks were administered in automated testing chambers, with a nosepoke as the critical response. While neither Pb-exposed group (median blood lead levels: 19 and 39 micrograms/dl, respectively) was impaired in learning the alternation rule, both groups performed more poorly than controls on the alternation task with variable intertrial delays (0, 10, 20, and 40 s). The deficit was constant across delays, arguing against memory dysfunction. Analyses of the responses on individual trials shed further light on the impaired and spared processes in the Pb-exposed rats. First, these analyses revealed stronger side biases in the higher exposure group. One interpretation is that these animals experienced impatience when the longer delays were included, making it more difficult for them to inhibit a prepotent response to a preferred side. In contrast, these trial-by-trial analyses revealed that several other factors-retention interval, semantic proactive interference, and temporal discriminability-exerted similar effects on performance in the control and lead-exposed animals. The use of logistic regression for these trial-by-trial analyses provided a means of simultaneously assessing the influence of several variables on performance, a significant advantage when there is confounding or interactions between variables.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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