Attentional deficits and altered neuronal activation in medial prefrontal and posterior parietal cortices in mice with reduced dopamine transporter levels

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Abstract

The executive control function of attention is regulated by the dopaminergic (DA) system. Dopamine transporter (DAT) likely plays a role in controlling the influence of DA on cognitive processes. We examined the effects of DAT depletion on cognitive processes related to attention. Mice with the DAT gene genetically deleted (DAT+/− heterozygotes) were compared to wild type (WT) mice on the Attentional Set-Shifting Task (ASST). Changes in neuronal activity during the ASST were shown with early growth response genes 1 and 2 (egr-1 and egr-2) immunohistochemistry in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Heterozygotes were impaired in tasks that tax reversal learning, attentional-set formation and set-shifting. Densities of egr-2 labeled cells in the mPFC were lower in mutant mice when compared with wild-types in intradimensional shift of attention (IDS), extradimensional shift of attention and extradimensional shift of attention-reversal phases of the ASST task, and in PPC in the IDS phase of the task. The results demonstrate impairments of the areas associated with attentional functions in DAT+/− mice and show that an imbalance of the dopaminergic system has an impact on the complex attention-related executive functions.

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