Deterioration in attention and related processes is an early sign in schizophrenia predictive of disease development. Amongst the various translational paradigms for assessing attention in rodents, it is not known if they are equivalent in detecting individual differences. Answers here are pertinent to their use in the general human population for identifying individuals at high risk of developing schizophrenia. The present study employed a within-subject approach to examine in mice two common paradigms for assessing attention that differ markedly in their implementation. An operant-based two-choice visual discrimination task (2-CVDT) that depends on effortful attention to brief visual cues was contrasted with prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the acoustic startle reflex, a well-established test of pre-attentive gating whereby processing of a startle-eliciting stimulus is inhibited by a preceding weak prepulse stimulus. Here, we revealed a correlation showing that individual mice with low PPI tended to perform poorly in the 2-CVDT in terms of choice accuracy but not response speed. This specific positive correlation suggests that the two readouts might be regulated via common attentional mechanisms, which might be critically dependent on normal muscarinic and N-methyl-D-asparate receptor functions. As demonstrated here, blockade of either receptor type by scopolamine or dizocilpine impaired 2-CVDT performance at doses that have been shown to disrupt PPI in mice. Further studies contrasting these two paradigms would be warranted to characterize the possible underlying psychological constructs that give rise to this correlation and to clarify whether the two paradigms may effectively capture schizophrenia-related cognitive deficits belonging to orthogonal domains.
- Prepulse inhibition