The attentional set shifting task: A measure of cognitive flexibility in mice

Jillian M. Heisler, Juan Morales, Jennifer J. Donegan, Julianne D. Jett, Laney Redus, Jason C. O'connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Cognitive impairment, particularly involving dysfunction of circuitry within the prefrontal cortex (PFC), represents a core feature of many neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorder. Deficits in cognitive function also represent the most difficult symptom domain to successfully treat, as serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants have only modest effects. Functional neuroimaging studies and postmortem analysis of human brain tissue implicate the PFC as being a primary region of dysregulation in patients with these disorders. However, preclinical behavioral assays used to assess these deficits in mouse models which can be readily manipulated genetically and could provide the basis for studies of new treatment avenues have been underutilized. Here we describe the adaptation of a behavioral assay, the attentional set shifting task (AST), to be performed in mice to assess prefrontal cortex mediated cognitive deficits. The neural circuits underlying behavior during the AST are highly conserved across humans, nonhuman primates and rodents, providing excellent face, construct and predictive validity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere51944
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number96
StatePublished - Feb 4 2015


  • Attention
  • Behavior
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Issue 96
  • Mouse
  • Neuropsychiatric symptom
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Neuroscience


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