Glucocorticoid receptor impairment enhances impulsive responding in transgenic mice performing on a simultaneous visual discrimination task


: Dr T. Steckler, as above.


Transgenic mice with impaired glucocorticoid receptor (GR) function were tested for their ability to learn and perform a series of simultaneous visual discriminations which allowed a dissociation between accuracy of discrimination from those of motivation and behavioural disinhibition. Animals were first trained on an operant five-choice simultaneous discrimination autoshaping procedure, followed by a continuous reinforcement schedule on that task. Subsequently, the number of choices was limited to two and data were analysed according to the mathematical methods of signal detection theory (SDT). The effects of GR-antisense expression on accuracy when different rates of responding were required were studied under different fixed ratio response requirements (FR1–FR10). Autoshaping was retarded in transgenic animals and accuracy was impaired in both the five-choice and the two-choice discrimination tasks, although transgenic mice showed clear evidence for learning. Under conditions of low response requirements, transgenic mice showed increased response and cognitive biases, but reduced perceptual bias, and a behavioural disinhibition, characterized by a reduction in errors of omission, decreased response latencies and increased number of responses during the inter-trial interval. Increasing the response requirement improved performance in transgenic animals as reflected by enhanced accuracy. Moreover, transgenics were less susceptible to the deleterious effects of higher response requirements, as indicated by relatively unaffected bias measures in this group, while bias increased in controls. These results indicate that altered performance in GR-antisense transgenic animals cannot simply be interpreted as a mnemonic deficit, but that altered motivation and enhanced impulsive responding may account for some of these impairments.