Sex-related differences in spatial divided attention and motor impulsivity in rats

Behav Neurosci. 2003 Feb;117(1):76-83. doi: 10.1037//0735-7044.117.1.76.


The acquisition and performance of a self-paced test of spatial divided attention linked with frontal cortex function were assessed in postpubertal (> 60 days) normal or gonadectomized male and female rats. Males were more accurate at detecting relatively brief visual stimuli than females, but this difference was eliminated by increasing the target stimulus duration, indicating an attentional basis for this effect. Premature errors were, however, greater in males than in females, suggesting greater impulsivity in males. Subsequent experiments in gonadectomized rats suggest that circulating hormones influence attention and impulsivity, but not necessarily sex differences. These results demonstrate a double dissociation between components of impulse control and divided attention in male and female rats and may have implications for sex differences in disorders of attention and cognition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Male
  • Motor Activity*
  • Orchiectomy / veterinary
  • Ovariectomy / veterinary
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal*