The continuous performance test (rCPT) for mice: a novel operant touchscreen test of attentional function

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015 Nov;232(21-22):3947-66. doi: 10.1007/s00213-015-4081-0. Epub 2015 Sep 29.


Rationale: Continuous performance tests (CPTs) are widely used to assess attentional processes in a variety of disorders including Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia. Common human CPTs require discrimination of sequentially presented, visually patterned 'target' and 'non-target' stimuli at a single location.

Objectives: The aims of this study were to evaluate the performance of three popular mouse strains on a novel rodent touchscreen test (rCPT) designed to be analogous to common human CPT variants and to investigate the effects of donepezil, a cholinesterase inhibitor and putative cognitive enhancer.

Methods: C57BL/6J, DBA/2J and CD1 mice (n = 15-16/strain) were trained to baseline performance using four rCPT training stages. Then, probe tests assessed the effects of parameter changes on task performance: stimulus size, duration, contrast, probability, inter-trial interval or inclusion of flanker distractors. rCPT performance was also evaluated following acute administration of donepezil (0-3 mg/kg, i.p.).

Results: C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice showed similar acquisition rates and final baseline performance following rCPT training. On probe tests, rCPT performance of both strains was sensitive to alteration of visual and/or attentional demands (stimulus size, duration, contrast, rate, flanker distraction). Relative to C57BL/6J, DBA/2J mice exhibited (1) decreasing sensitivity (d') across the 45-min session, (2) reduced performance on probes where the appearance of stimuli or adjacent areas were changed (size, contrast, flanking distractors) and (3) larger dose- and stimulus duration-dependent changes in performance following donepezil administration. In contrast, CD1 mice failed to acquire rCPT (stage 3) and pairwise visual discrimination tasks.

Conclusions: rCPT is a potentially useful translational tool for assessing attention in mice and for detecting the effects of nootropic drugs.

Keywords: Continuous performance test; Donepezil; Mouse; Mouse strain differences; Touchscreen operant chamber.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects
  • Discrimination, Psychological / drug effects
  • Donepezil
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Humans
  • Indans / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Nootropic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Piperidines / pharmacology
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Species Specificity
  • Visual Perception / drug effects


  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Indans
  • Nootropic Agents
  • Piperidines
  • Donepezil