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Memory and Perseveration on a Win-Stay, Lose-Shift Task in Rats Exposed Neonatally to Alcohol
Matthew C. Bell, Edward P. Riley
Objective: It is important to understand the relationship between perseverative responding resulting from perinatal exposure to alcohol and potential underlying causes, including attention, memory, or response-inhibition problems. The present study was designed to examine the relationship between perseveration and memory. Method: Rats exposed neonatally to 6 g/kg/day alcohol from postnatal day (PD) 4 through PD 9 using an artificial rearing technique (n = 8) were compared with an artificially reared gastrostomy control group (n = 8) and a suckle control group (n = 8). Activity levels were assessed from PD 18-21. Beginning on PD 45, subjects were deprived of food and responded for food on a two-lever win-stay, lose-shift task in which reinforcement probability was a function of reinforcement delivery on the previous trial. If reinforcement was delivered, only a response on the same lever (stay) was reinforced. If reinforcement was not delivered, only a response on the opposite lever (shift) was reinforced. Effective responding depended on subjects remembering whether a reinforcer was delivered on the preceding trial. The intertrial interval varied across conditions (5 seconds or 60 seconds). Results: Alcohol-exposed rats showed increased activity during activity testing but did not differ from controls on win-stay, lose-shift accuracy. All groups showed a performance decrease at longer intertrial intervals. Alcohol-exposed rats showed increased lever pressing during the intertrial interval compared with suckle control rats but not with gastrostomy control rats. Conclusions: Choice behavior was comparable for all groups on the win-stay, lose-shift task, indicating that memory, as assessed by this task, was not differentially affected by alcohol exposure. Alcohol-exposed rats responded more during the intertrial interval compared with suckle controls, suggesting increased activity without increased response inhibition. The win-stay, lose-shift procedure is a potentially useful tool for separating simple activity level effects, memory-related effects, and response-inhibition effects. This study also highlights the need for additional research describing the relationship between perseverative responding and underlying mechanisms. (J. Stud. Alcohol 67: 851-860, 2006)