Improvements and important considerations for the 5-choice serial reaction time task—An effective measurement of visual attention in rats
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BACKGROUND: The 5-choice serial reaction time task (5-CSRTT) is an automated operant conditioning task that measures rodent attention. The task allows the measurement of several parameters such as response accuracy, speed of processing, motivation, and impulsivity. The task has been widely used to investigate attentional processes in rodents for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and has expanded to other illnesses such as Alzheimer's disease, depression, and schizophrenia. NEW METHOD: The 5-CSRTT is accompanied with two significant caveats: a time intensive training period and largely varied individual rat capability to learn and perform the task. Here we provide a regimented acquisition protocol to enhance training for the 5-CSRTT and discuss important considerations for researchers using the 5-CSRTT. RESULTS: We offer guidelines to ensure that inferences on performance in the 5-CSRTT are in fact a result of experimental manipulation rather than training differences, or individual animal capability. According to our findings only rats that have been trained successfully within a limited time frame should be used for the remainder of the study. COMPARISON WITH EXISTING METHOD(S): Currently the 5-CSRTT employs a training period of variable duration and procedure, and its inferences on attention must overcome heterogeneous innate animal differences. CONCLUSIONS: The 5-CSRTT offers valuable and valid insights on various rodent attentional processes and their translation to the underpinnings of illnesses such as schizophrenia. The recommendations made here provide important criteria to ensure inferences made from this task are in fact relevant to the attentional processes being measured.
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