Deficits in discrimination after experimental frontal brain injury are mediated by motivation and can be improved by nicotinamide administration

Cole Vonder Haar, William R. Maass, Eric A. Jacobs, Michael R. Hoane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


One of the largest challenges in experimental neurotrauma work is the development of models relevant to the human condition. This includes both creating similar pathophysiology as well as the generation of relevant behavioral deficits. Recent studies have shown that there is a large potential for the use of discrimination tasks in rats to detect injury-induced deficits. The literature on discrimination and TBI is still limited, however. The current study investigated motivational and motor factors that could potentially contribute to deficits in discrimination. In addition, the efficacy of a neuroprotective agent, nicotinamide, was assessed. Rats were trained on a discrimination task and motivation task, given a bilateral frontal controlled cortical impact TBI (+3.0 AP, 0.0 ML from bregma), and then reassessed. They were also assessed on motor ability and Morris water maze (MWM) performance. Experiment 1 showed that TBI resulted in large deficits in discrimination and motivation. No deficits were observed on gross motor measures; however, the vehicle group showed impairments in fine motor control. Both injured groups were impaired on the reference memory MWM, but only nicotinamide-treated rats were impaired on the working memory MWM. Nicotinamide administration improved performance on discrimination and motivation measures. Experiment 2 evaluated retraining on the discrimination task and suggested that motivation may be a large factor underlying discrimination deficits. Retrained rats improved considerably on the discrimination task. The tasks evaluated in this study demonstrate robust deficits and may improve the detection of pharmaceutical effects by being very sensitive to pervasive cognitive deficits that occur after frontal TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1711-1720
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • animal models
  • controlled cortical impact
  • operant learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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