The Impact of Motivation on Cognitive Performance in an Animal Model of the Negative and Cognitive Symptoms of Schizophrenia

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Interactions between motivation and cognition are implicated in producing functional impairments and poor quality of life in psychiatric patients. This interaction, however, is not well understood at either the behavioral or neural level. We developed a procedure for mice in which a cognitive measure, sustained attention, is modulated by a motivationally relevant signal that predicts reward probability on a trial-by-trial basis. Using this paradigm, we tested the interaction between motivation and cognition in mice that model the increased striatal D2 receptor activity observed in schizophrenia patients (D2R-OE mice). In control mice, attention was modulated by signaled-reward probability. In D2R-OE mice, however, attention was not modulated by reward-related cues. This impairment was not due to any global deficits in attention or maintenance of the trial-specific information in working memory. Turning off the transgene in D2R-OE mice rescued the motivational modulation of attention. These results indicate that deficits in motivation impair the ability to use reward-related cues to recruit attention and that improving motivation improves functional cognitive performance. These results further suggest that addressing motivational impairments in patients is critical to achieving substantive cognitive and functional gains.

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