The effects of housing conditions and methylphenidate on two volitional inhibition tasks
The failure to withhold inappropriate behavior is a central component of most impulse control disorders, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The present study examined the effects of housing environment and methylphenidate (a drug often prescribed for ADHD) on the performance of rats in two response inhibition tasks: differential reinforcement of low rate (DRL) and fixed minimum interval (FMI). Both tasks required rats to wait a fixed amount of time (6 s) before emitting a reinforced response. The capacity to withhold the target response (volitional inhibition) and timing precision were estimated on the basis of performance in each of the tasks. Paradoxically, rats housed in a mildly enriched environment that included a conspecific displayed less volitional inhibition in both tasks compared to rats housed in an isolated environment. Enriched housing, however, increased timing precision. Acute administration of methylphenidate partially reversed the effects of enriched housing. Implications of these results in the assessment and treatment of ADHD-related impulsivity are discussed.