Gene-dose dependent effects of methamphetamine on interval timing in dopamine-transporter knockout mice

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The dopamine transporter (DAT) is the major regulator of the spatial and temporal resolution of dopaminergic neurotransmission in the brain. Hyperdopaminergic mice with DAT gene deletions were evaluated for their ability to perform duration discriminations in the seconds-to-minutes range. DAT −/− mice were unable to demonstrate temporal control of behavior in either fixed-interval or peak-interval timing procedures, whereas DAT +/− mice were similar to DAT +/+ mice under normal conditions. Low to moderate-dose methamphetamine (MAP) challenges indicated that DAT +/− mice were less sensitive to the clock-speed enhancing effects of MAP compared with DAT +/+ mice. In contrast, DAT +/− mice were more vulnerable than DAT +/+ mice to the disruptive effects of MAP at high doses as revealed by the elevation of response rate in the righthand tail of the Gaussian-shaped timing functions. Moreover, this treatment made DAT +/− mice functionally equivalent to DAT −/− mice in terms of the loss of temporal control. Taken together, these results demonstrate the importance of dopaminergic control of interval timing in cortico-striatal circuits and the potential link of timing dysfunctions to schizophrenia and drug abuse.

This article is part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Schizophrenia’.


▸ Wild-type and dopamine transporter (DAT) knockout mice are studied using dual (15-s and 45-s) and single (20-s) peak-interval timing procedures. ▸ We examine changes in interval timing as a function of DAT gene deletions. ▸ DAT −/− mice were unable to exhibit temporal control of lever pressing, while DAT +/− mice were able to time in a manner similar to DAT +/+ mice unless challenged with methamphetamine injections. ▸ Observations are discussed in terms of hyperdopaminergic effects in cortical-striatal circuits.

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