Lead, attention, and impulsive behavior: changes in a fixed-ratio waiting-for-reward paradigm

Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1998 Jun;60(2):545-52. doi: 10.1016/s0091-3057(98)00023-9.


Similar to the effects observed in children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), experimental animals exposed to lead (Pb) exhibit behaviors attributed to "impulsivity" and "inability to inhibit inappropriate responding." Such behaviors have led some to suggest that Pb exposure is associated with attention deficit. Based on the hypothesis that attention deficits are related to an ineffectiveness of delayed reinforcement, this study examined the effects of chronic postweaning Pb exposure on an FR waiting-for-reward paradigm. Rats were exposed chronically from weaning to 0, 50, or 150 ppm Pb acetate in water and following 40 days of exposure, trained on a fixed-ratio (FR) wait behavioral baseline. A total of 50 lever press responses (FR 50) produced food delivery. After earning an FR pellet, "free" pellets could be obtained by waiting; emission of another lever press reinitiated the FR requirement. "Free" pellets were delivered at increasing intervals (2 s, 4 s, 6 s, etc.). Pb exposure increased response rates on the FR schedule and decreased the mean longest waiting time, but also resulted in a higher number of responses per reinforcer than exhibited by controls. These Pb-induced differences are consistent with an inability to manage delays of reinforcement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects*
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology*
  • Lead / blood
  • Lead / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Reward


  • Lead