Attentional set-shifting across species

Verity J. Brown, David S. Tait*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

39 Citations (Scopus)


Attentional set-shifting, as a measure of executive flexibility, has been a staple of investigations into human cognition for over six decades. Mediated by the frontal cortex in mammals, the cognitive processes involved in forming, maintaining and shifting an attentional set are vulnerable to dysfunction arising from a number of human neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases) and other neurological disorders (such as schizophrenia, depression, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Our understanding of these diseases and disorders, and the cognitive impairments induced by them, continues to advance, in tandem with an increasing number of tools at our disposal. In this chapter, we review and compare commonly used attentional set-shifting tasks (the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task and Intradimensional/Extradimensional tasks) and their applicability across species. In addition to humans, attentional set-shifting has been observed in a number of other animals, with a substantial body of literature describing performance in monkeys and rodents. We consider the task designs used to investigate attentional set-shifting in these species and the methods used to model human diseases and disorders, and ultimately the comparisons and differences between species-specific tasks, and between performance across species.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCurrent Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences
Number of pages33
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016

Publication series

NameCurrent Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences
ISSN (Print)1866-3370
ISSN (Electronic)1866-3389


  • ADHD
  • Affective disorder
  • Attention set-shifting
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Reversal learning
  • Schizophrenia
  • Wisconsin card sorting test


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