Assessment of intradimensional/extradimensional attentional set-shifting in rats

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The rat intradimensional/extradimensional (ID/ED) task, first described by Birrell and Brown 18 years ago, has become the predominant means by which attentional set-shifting is investigated in rodents: the use of rats in the task has been described in over 135 publications by researchers from nearly 90 universities and pharmaceutical companies. There is variation in the protocols used by different groups, including differences in apparatus, stimuli (both stimulus dimensions and exemplars within), and also the methodology. Nevertheless, most of these variations seem to be of little consequence: there is remarkable similarity in the profile of published data, with consistency of learning rates and in the size and reliability of the set-shifting and reversal ‘costs’. However, we suspect that there may be inconsistent data that is unpublished or perhaps ‘failed experiments’ that may have been caused by unintended deviations from effective protocols. The purpose of this review is to describe our approach and the rationale behind certain aspects of the protocol, including common pitfalls that are encountered when establishing an effective local protocol.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-84
Number of pages13
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Early online date21 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018


  • Attentional Set-Shifting
  • Rodents
  • Intradimensional
  • Extradimensional
  • Prefrontal Cortex


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