Prenatal Cocaine Exposure Impairs Selective Attention: Evidence From Serial Reversal and Extradimensional Shift Tasks

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This study assessed the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on cognitive functioning, using an intravenous (IV) rodent model that closely mimics the pharmacokinetics seen in humans after smoking or IV injection and that avoids maternal stress and undernutrition. Cocaine-exposed males were significantly impaired on a 3-choice, but not 2-choice, olfactory serial reversal learning task. Both male and female cocaine-exposed rats were significantly impaired on extradimensional shift tasks that required shifting from olfactory to spatial cues; however, they showed no impairment when required to shift from spatial to olfactory cues. In-depth analyses of discrete learning phases implicated deficient selective attention as the basis of impairment in both tasks. These data provide clear evidence that prenatal cocaine exposure produces long-lasting cognitive dysfunction, but they also underscore the specificity of the impairment.

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