Effects of acute and sustained pain manipulations on performance in a visual-signal detection task of attention in rats

Drug Dev Res. 2015 Jun;76(4):194-203. doi: 10.1002/ddr.21255. Epub 2015 Jun 16.


Preclinical Research Patients with pain often display cognitive impairment including deficits in attention. The visual-signal detection task (VSDT) is a behavioral procedure for assessment of attention in rodents. Male Sprague Dawley rats were trained in a VSDT and tested with three different noxious stimuli: (i) intraperitoneal injection of lactic acid; (ii) intraplantar injection of formalin; and (iii) intraplantar injection of complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA). The muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist, scopolamine was also tested as a positive control. Scopolamine (0.01-1.0 mg/kg) dose dependently reduced accuracy and increased response latencies during completed trials with higher scopolamine doses increasing omissions. Lactic acid (0.56-5.6% ip) also increased response latencies and omissions, although it failed to alter measures of response accuracy. Formalin produced a transient decrease in accuracy while also increasing both response latency and omissions. CFA failed to alter VSDT performance. Although VSDT effects were transient for formalin and absent for CFA, both treatments produced mechanical allodynia and paw edema for up to 7 days. These results support the potential for noxious stimuli to produce a pain-related disruption of attention in rats. However, relatively strong noxious stimulation appears necessary to disrupt performance in this version of the VSDT.

Keywords: attention; lactic acid; pain.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention*
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Edema
  • Formaldehyde
  • Freund's Adjuvant
  • Hyperalgesia
  • Lactic Acid
  • Male
  • Pain / chemically induced
  • Pain / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Scopolamine
  • Signal Detection, Psychological


  • Formaldehyde
  • Lactic Acid
  • Freund's Adjuvant
  • Scopolamine