Impaired attention is central to the cognitive deficits observed in alpha 7 deficient mice

Author(s): Young JW, Crawford N, Kelly JS, Kerr LE, Marston HM, et al.


alpha7-Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (alpha7-nAChR) have been implicated in a range of cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Therefore we examined alpha7-nAChR knockout (KO), heterozygote (HT) and wildtype (WT) littermate mice in the 5-CSR (a rodent model of sustained attention) and odour span (a novel mouse working memory paradigm) tasks, and related performance to nAChR density. Whilst there was no difference between groups in baseline 5-CSR task performance, alpha7-nAChR KO's exhibited significantly higher omission levels compared to WT mice on increasing the attentional load, with HT mice performing at an intermediate level. Furthermore, alpha7-nAChR KO mice were significantly impaired in the odour span task when compared to WT mice, in a pattern consistent with impaired attention. These behavioural deficits were associated with the loss of alpha7-nAChRs, as alpha4beta2-nAChR density was unaltered in these mice. Thus these studies intimate that the attentional impairment in alpha7-nAChR transgenic mice maybe core to other deficits in cognition.

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