Effects of chlordiazepoxide and scopolamine, but not aging, on the detection and identification of conditional visual stimuli

Date Published:

1995 Mar


Our previous studies revealed impairments in the ability of aged rats to detect brief, rarely and unpredictably occurring stimuli. The failure of these impairments to interact with the effects of benzodiazepine receptor (BZR) ligands was attributed to low demands on stimulus-related information processing. Thus, in the present experiment, rats of different ages were trained to detect visual stimuli that were flashing at 20 Hz, or were constantly illuminated, for 8, 3, or 5 sec. Additionally, selection of the correct lever to report detection required the processing of propositional rules (e.g., flashing-go left; constant-go right), i.e., the identification of the stimulus. All measures of performance varied with stimulus duration. Subsedative doses of the BZR agonist chlordiazepoxide (CDP; 3.13, 4.69 mg/kg), similar to the effects of the muscarinic antagonist scopolamine (.025, 0.1 mg/kg), impaired response accuracy, increased the number of errors of omission and decreased response latencies. Animals aged 28 months omitted more trials following the administration of CDP than 12-month-old rats. Age did not produce main effects and did not interact with the effects of the drugs on response accuracy. It is speculated that, as stimuli had to be presented for relatively long periods of time (to maintain above chance-level discrimination performance), demands on detection remained too low to replicate previously documented effects of age. The demonstration of interactions between the effects of age and of BZR-ligands appears to depend on combined demands for stimulus detection and identification.