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Behav Brain Res. 2013 Mar 1;240:119-33. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2012.11.028. Epub 2012 Nov 29.

Nicotinic agonist-induced improvement of vigilance in mice in the 5-choice continuous performance test.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive MC 0804, La Jolla, CA 92093-0804, United States.


Impaired attentional processing is prevalent in numerous neuropsychiatric disorders and may negatively impact other cognitive and functional domains. Nicotine - a nonspecific nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) agonist - improves vigilance in healthy subjects and schizophrenia patients as measured by continuous performance tests (CPTs), but the nAChR mediating this effect remains unclear. Here we examine the effects of: (a) nicotine; (b) the selective α7 nAChR agonist PNU 282987; and (c) the selective α4β2 nAChR agonist ABT-418 alone and in combination with scopolamine-induced disruption of mouse 5-choice (5C-)CPT performance. This task requires the inhibition of responses to non-target stimuli as well as active responses to target stimuli, consistent with human CPTs. C57BL/6N mice were trained to perform the 5C-CPT. Drug effects were examined in extended session and variable stimulus-duration challenges of performance. Acute drug effects on scopolamine-induced disruption in performance were also investigated. Nicotine and ABT-418 subtly but significantly improved performance of normal mice and attenuated scopolamine-induced disruptions in the 5C-CPT. PNU 282-987 had no effects on performance. The similarity of nicotine and ABT-418 effects provides support for an α4β2 nAChR mechanism of action for nicotine-induced improvement in attention/vigilance. Moreover, the data provide pharmacological predictive validation for the 5C-CPT because nicotine improved and scopolamine disrupted normal performance of the task, consistent with healthy humans in the CPT. Future studies using more selective agonists may result in more robust improvements in performance.

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