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      Image discrimination reversal learning is impaired by sleep deprivation in rats: Cognitive rigidity or fatigue?


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          Insufficient sleep is pervasive worldwide, and its toll on health and safety is recapitulated in many settings. It is thus important to understand how poor sleep affects the brain and decision making. A robust literature documents the adverse effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive processes including cognitive flexibility, which is the capacity to appraise new feedback and make behavioral adjustments to respond appropriately. Animal models are often used to unravel the molecules, genes and neural circuits that are altered by sleep loss. Herein we take a translational approach to model the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive rigidity, i.e., impaired cognitive flexibility in rats.


          There are several approaches to assess cognitive rigidity; in the present study, we employ a pairwise discrimination reversal task. To our knowledge this is the first time this paradigm has been used to investigate sleep deprivation. In this touchscreen operant platform, we trained rats to select one of two images to claim a sucrose pellet reward. If the non-rewarded image was selected the rats proceeded to a correction trial where both images were presented in the same position as before. This image presentation continued until the rat selected the correct image. Once rats reached performance criteria, the reward contingencies were reversed. In one group of rats the initial reversal session was preceded by 10 h of sleep deprivation. We compared those rats to controls with undisturbed sleep on the number of sessions to reach performance criteria, number of trials per session, response latencies, correct responses, errors, perseverative errors and perseveration bouts in the initial training and reversal phases.


          We report that on reversal session one, sleep deprived rats completed a fraction of the trials completed by controls. On subsequent reversal sessions, the sleep deprived rats struggled to adapt to the reversed contingencies despite completing a similar number of trials, suggesting an effect of cognitive rigidity separate from fatigue.


          We discuss the delayed performance dynamics incurred by sleep loss in the context of fatigue and the implications of using pairwise discrimination reversal as a model to further examine the effects of sleep loss on adaptive decision making.

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          Most cited references63

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          The novel object recognition memory: neurobiology, test procedure, and its modifications

          Animal models of memory have been considered as the subject of many scientific publications at least since the beginning of the twentieth century. In humans, memory is often accessed through spoken or written language, while in animals, cognitive functions must be accessed through different kind of behaviors in many specific, experimental models of memory and learning. Among them, the novel object recognition test can be evaluated by the differences in the exploration time of novel and familiar objects. Its application is not limited to a field of research and enables that various issues can be studied, such as the memory and learning, the preference for novelty, the influence of different brain regions in the process of recognition, and even the study of different drugs and their effects. This paper describes the novel object recognition paradigms in animals, as a valuable measure of cognition. The purpose of this work was to review the neurobiology and methodological modifications of the test commonly used in behavioral pharmacology.
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            The human emotional brain without sleep--a prefrontal amygdala disconnect.

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              Demystifying cognitive flexibility: Implications for clinical and developmental neuroscience.

              Cognitive flexibility, the readiness with which one can selectively switch between mental processes to generate appropriate behavioral responses, develops in a protracted manner and is compromised in several prevalent neurodevelopmental disorders. It is unclear whether cognitive flexibility arises from neural substrates distinct from the executive control network (ECN) or from the interplay of nodes within this and other networks. Here we review neuroimaging studies of cognitive flexibility, focusing on set shifting and task switching. We propose that more consistent operationalization and study of cognitive flexibility is required in clinical and developmental neuroscience. We suggest that an important avenue for future research is the characterization of the relationship between neural flexibility and cognitive flexibility in typical and atypical development.

                Author and article information

                Front Syst Neurosci
                Front Syst Neurosci
                Front. Syst. Neurosci.
                Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                17 November 2022
                : 16
                : 1052441
                Department of Translational Medicine and Physiology, Sleep and Performance Research Center, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, Steve Gleason Institute for Neuroscience, Washington State University , Spokane, WA, United States
                Author notes

                Edited by: H. C. Heller, Stanford University, United States

                Reviewed by: Brianne Kent, Simon Fraser University, Canada; Li-Jen Lee, National Taiwan University, Taiwan

                *Correspondence: Christopher J. Davis, cjdavis@ 123456wsu.edu
                Copyright © 2022 Strobel, Schmidt, Harvey and Davis.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 23 September 2022
                : 31 October 2022
                Page count
                Figures: 7, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 63, Pages: 12, Words: 8479
                Funded by: Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, doi 10.13039/100000090;
                Original Research

                pairwise discrimination,cognitive flexibility,operant conditioning,adaptive decision feedback,perseverative errors,response latency


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