Effects of a novel CB1 agonist on visual attention in male rats: Role of strategy and expectancy in task accuracy

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Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology


attention, cannabinoids, decision making, marijuana, operant conditioning, CB1 agonist, rats, task accuracy


The effects of cannabinoid CB1 agonists (including Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of marijuana) on attention are uncertain, with reports of impairments, no effects, and occasionally performance enhancements. To better understand these effects, we sought to uncover a role of changing online (within-session) strategy as a possible mediator of the effects of the novel, potent CB1 agonist AM 4054, on a model of sustained attention in male Sprague–Dawley rats. In this operant, two-choice reaction time (RT) task, AM 4054 decreased accuracy in an asymmetric manner; that is, performance was spared on one lever but impaired on the other. Furthermore, this pattern was enhanced by the outcome of the previous trial such that AM 4054 strengthened a win-stay strategy on the “preferred” lever and a lose-shift strategy on the “nonpreferred” lever. This pattern is often found in tests of expectancy; therefore, in a second experiment AM 4054 enhanced expectancy that we engendered by altering the probability of the two stimulus cues. Accuracy was impaired in reporting the less frequent cue, but only after two or more presentations of the more frequent cue. Taking the results of the experiments together, AM 4054 engendered expectancy by increasing the role of previous trial location and outcome on performance of future trials, diminishing stimulus control (and therefore, accuracy). This novel effect of CB1 receptor agonism may contribute to the deleterious effects of cannabinoids on attention.


© 2013 American Psychological Association