Assessment of impulsivity in adolescent mice: A new training procedure for a 3-choice serial reaction time task

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Abstract

Immaturity in impulse control among adolescents could result in substance abuse, criminal involvement, and suicide. The brains of adolescents and adults are anatomically, neurophysiologically, and pharmacologically different. Therefore, preclinical models of adolescent impulsivity are required to screen drugs for adolescents and elucidate the neural mechanisms underlying age-related differences in impulsivity. The conventional 3- or 5-choice serial reaction time task, which is a widely used task to assess impulsivity in adult rodents, cannot be used for young mice because of two technical problems: impaired growth caused by food restriction and the very long training duration. To overcome these problems, we altered the conventional training process, optimizing the degree of food restriction for young animals and shortening the training duration. We found that almost all basal performance levels were similar between the novel and conventional procedures. We also confirmed the pharmacological validity of our results: the 5-hydroxytryptamine 2C (5-HT2C) receptor agonist Ro60–0175 (0.6mg/kg, subcutaneous) reduced the occurrence of premature responses, whereas the 5-HT2C receptor antagonist SB242084 (0.5mg/kg intraperitoneal) increased their occurrence, consistent with results of previous studies using conventional procedures. Furthermore, we detected age-related differences in impulsivity using the novel procedure: adolescent mice were found to be more impulsive than adult mice, congruent with the results of human studies. Thus, the new procedure enables the assessment of impulsivity in adolescent mice and facilitates a better understanding of the neurophysiological/pharmacological properties of adolescents.

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