Attentional set-shifting in mice: modification of a rat paradigm, and evidence for strain-dependent variation

Behav Brain Res. 2002 Apr 15;132(1):95-102. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(01)00391-6.


Increasingly precise molecular genetic tools are available to study in mice the cellular mechanisms underlying complex brain functions, but the behavioural paradigms to assess these functions often lack the required specificity. In this study, an attentional set-shifting paradigm to assess medial frontal cortex functions in rats was modified for use in mice and variation between two relevant mouse strains assessed. Male 129/SvEv and C57BL/6J mice and their F1 intercross (n=8 per genotype) were trained to dig in bowls for a food reward. On four consecutive days, mice performed a series of discriminations to criterion (six consecutive correct choices) between pairs of food bowls that differed along two dimensions (odour, digging medium), including a reversal, an intra-dimensional shift, and an extra-dimensional shift. Mice from the 129 strain performed significantly better than C57 mice in the initial acquisition of a simple discrimination and in the final extra-dimensional shift test, with no difference in the reversal and intra-dimensional shift. Performance of the F1 mice was intermediate or similar to that of the 129 mice. These results indicate a selective difference between these two strains in attentional selection processes that have been shown in humans, monkeys and rats to be mediated by prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / physiology
  • Association Learning / physiology
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology*
  • Genetic Variation*
  • Habituation, Psychophysiologic / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Problem Solving / physiology*
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Smell / physiology
  • Species Specificity