Crossmodal divided attention in rats: effects of chlordiazepoxide and scopolamine


McGaughy J, Turchi J, Sarter M. Crossmodal divided attention in rats: effects of chlordiazepoxide and scopolamine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1994;115 (1-2) :213-20.

Date Published:

1994 Jun


"Divided attention" is a psychological construct that hinges on assumptions about a fixed finite capacity of subjects to simultaneously process multiple sets of information. A model of a crossmodal divided attention task was developed in rats. Initially, rats were trained consecutively in operant auditory and visual conditional discrimination tasks. The final task consisted of two successive blocks of 20 trials per modality (modality certainty), followed by 60 trials comprising a semi-randomized sequence of stimuli of both modalities (auditory or visual) and qualities (flashing/pulsing or constantly turned on; modality uncertainty). In comparison to unimodal blocks of trials, performance in the mixed condition was assumed to reflect the demands on the parallel processing of two sets of stimulus-response rules. While response accuracy remained unchanged, response latencies were generally longer in the bimodal condition. Administration of scopolamine (0.03, 0.06, 0.1 mg/kg) or chlordiazepoxide (1, 3, 5, 8 mg/kg) dose-dependently increased response latencies. The scopolamine-induced increase in response latencies was greater in the mixed condition. Cost-benefit analyses demonstrated that the absolute divided attention costs (in ms) were generally higher for visual than for auditory stimuli. Both drugs produced qualitatively similar effects; however, scopolamine was more potent in increasing the absolute divided attention costs than chlordiazepoxide. These data are discussed in terms of the validity of this animal paradigm, and of hypotheses about the effects of benzodiazepine receptor agonists and muscarinic antagonists on brain information processing capacity.