JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Procedural learning and cognitive flexibility in a mouse model of restricted, repetitive behaviour.

Restricted, repetitive behaviours (e.g., stereotypies, compulsions, rituals) in neurodevelopmental disorders have been linked to alterations in cortico-basal ganglia circuitry. Cognitive processes mediated by this circuitry (e.g., procedural learning, executive function) are likely to be impaired in individuals exhibiting high rates of repetitive behaviour. To test this hypothesis, we assessed both procedural learning and cognitive flexibility (reversal learning) using a T-maze task in deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) exhibiting various rates of repetitive behaviour (vertical jumping and backward somersaulting). These mice exhibited high rates of stereotypy when reared in standard rodent cages, and such behaviour was significantly attenuated by housing them in larger more complex environments. Mice reared in complex environments exhibited significantly better procedural and reversal learning than standard caged mice. Thus, early experience associated with the prevention and attenuation of stereotypy was associated with better striatally mediated learning and cognitive flexibility. Stereotypy score was significantly correlated with the number of errors made in reversal learning, and interacted with housing condition to affect overall cognitive performance. Our findings support the applicability of the deer mouse model of spontaneous stereotypy to a wider range of restricted, repetitive behaviour (e.g., insistence on sameness) typical of neurodevelopmental disorders.

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