The test was developed as a rodent homologue of the continuous performance task (CPT) for humans. In this test, the subject has to learn to respond to a brief illumination of one of the five openings, by poking its nose inside the correct hole in order to obtain a food reward. Only one hole is illuminated in each trial and in each trial every hole has the same probability of being illuminated. The duration of the visual stimulus can be varied to modulate the load on the attentional effort.
More the rules are learned by the subject, more the time spent to get the reward, as well as the number of errors are decreased. Multiple aspects of the behavior can be recorded to analyze results:
- Percentage of correct responses
- anticipatory responses (homologue of impulsive human behavior)
- perseverative responses (homologue of compulsive human behavior).
These parameters gives information about the functional integrity of attentional and learning processes and are mostly altered in animal models of schizophrenia and Alzheimer diseases.