Attention-modulating effects of cognitive enhancers.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, NC 27710, USA.
Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.82). 02/2011; 99(2):146-54. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2011.02.008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Attention can be readily measured in experimental animal models. Animal models of attention have been used to better understand the neural systems involved in attention, how attention is impaired, and how therapeutic treatments can ameliorate attentional deficits. This review focuses on the ways in which animal models are used to better understand the neuronal mechanism of attention and how to develop new therapeutic treatments for attentional impairment. Several behavioral test methods have been developed for experimental animal studies of attention, including a 5-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT), a signal detection task (SDT), and a novel object recognition (NOR) test. These tasks can be used together with genetic, lesion, pharmacological and behavioral models of attentional impairment to test the efficacy of novel therapeutic treatments. The most prominent genetic model is the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR). Well-characterized lesion models include frontal cortical or hippocampal lesions. Pharmacological models include challenge with the NMDA glutamate antagonist dizocilpine (MK-801), the nicotinic cholinergic antagonist mecamylamine and the muscarinic cholinergic antagonist scopolamine. Behavioral models include distracting stimuli and attenuated target stimuli. Important validation of these behavioral tests and models of attentional impairments for developing effective treatments for attentional dysfunction is the fact that stimulant treatments effective for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as methylphenidate (Ritalin®), are effective in the experimental animal models. Newer lines of treatment including nicotinic agonists, α4β2 nicotinic receptor desensitizers, and histamine H₃ antagonists, have also been found to be effective in improving attention in these animal models. Good carryover has also been seen for the attentional improvement caused by nicotine in experimental animal models and in human populations. Animal models of attention can be effectively used for the development of new treatments of attentional impairment in ADHD and other syndromes in which have attentional impairments occur, such as Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.

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