Spacing in the 5CSRTT Proves Beneficial in Early Levels

Student: Rebecca Warren
Major: Cognitive Behavioral Neuroscience
Advisors: Amy Jo Stavnezer, John Neuhoff

Rebecca WarrenADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. Due to these characterizations, children with ADHD typically exhibit lower academic performance which has been improved by spacing out academic training. Yet no study has performed spacing in an ADHD population. Spaced training involves studying over short periods for multiple days rather than multiple hours in one day, or massed training. Using a rat model of ADHD, known as the SHR strain, the present study assessed how spacing training from 90-trials a day to 45-trials a day in the 5CSRTT would improve performance abilities. The 5CSRTT is an attentiveness task that teaches the rat to respond to a light stimulus. A lightbulb goes on over one out of five slots and the rat must poke their nose into the slot to receive the reward. As the training levels go up, the light is on for a shorter period of time, requiring the rats to focus harder. Additionally, the impact of spaced training on object displacement was assessed. The object displacement task is a task that measures memory in SHRs. It involves placing four novel items in an arena, exposing the rat to the items, and then, one-week later, exposing them to the objects again but with one of the objects displaced. If the rat makes more contacts with that object, they are aware it has moved. Lastly, activity levels in the open field confirmed the SHR hyperactive phenotype. It was found that spacing was beneficial during earlier levels of 5CSRTT training, that required less focused attention. In addition, during the earliest level of training, males in the spaced condition benefited more than females, closing the previously reported sex gap. Due to the hyperexploratory nature of the SHR, spacing did not influence the ability to recognize the displaced object, and spaced training in 5CSRTT did not impact hyperactivity in the open field. These findings imply that by simply spacing out training, the SHR rats demonstrate a significant improvement in some training levels of the 5CSRTT.  Future studies should consider spacing out training for longer periods during the more difficult levels to give the rats a better opportunity at learning the more difficult level. It may also be beneficial to space out training in shorter intervals because other studies have found that short-interval spacing provided significant results in a reward-based task. Finally, an assessment of spacing academic work and attentiveness training in children with ADHD should be done.

Rebecca will be online to field comments on May 8:
4-6pm EDT (PST 1pm-3pm, Africa/Europe: late evening)

43 thoughts on “Spacing in the 5CSRTT Proves Beneficial in Early Levels”

  1. It was so lovely to listen to you talk about your rats throughout the year. I admire your passion. Well done!

  2. I’ve enjoyed hearing updates about the rats all year, and it’s amazing to see the culmination of all of your hard work! This is an incredibly interesting topic, and I can’t believe that no other studies have used spaced practice for people (or rats) with ADHD! You’re going to do such amazing things.

  3. Hi Rebecca! Congrats on your research! I was wondering if there was a reason you were drawn to spaced training as a learning strategy specifically, over others? Great job, can’t wait to see what life after Wooster has for you!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for your comment. Dr. Stavnezer, my advisor, was the one who initially brought spaced training to my attention. It is also a tactic that is both used in rat and human studies, so there was a plethora of research to take from.

  4. Interesting study Rebecca! Thank you for sharing it. Are education programs that emphasize spacing, particularly for children with ADHD?

    1. Hi Dr. Sobeck! I do not think there are any education programs for children with ADHD that currently emphasize spacing, but I do believe that having such programs would be extremely helpful. There are, however, programs and practices that allow children with ADHD to take more breaks than neurotypical children which allows them to regain their focus on tasks.

  5. Wow. The culmination of lots of work, Rebecca. You have such varied interest.

    Congratulations on completing your IS project. All the best,
    Dr. W

    1. Thank you Dr. Whitehead! It was a pleasure to have you as my professor this semester!

  6. Hi Rebecca,
    Thank you for contributing your IS work here. It is great to see what you have been working on this year. Congratulations on a job well done! 🙂

  7. Very interesting work, Rebecca! Why do you think that spaced training had a stronger effect on the male rats than on the female rats?

    1. Thank you fo this is very good question! According to prior research, male SHRs often perform worse on the percent correct portion of the task than female SHRs. Since massed training is typically used in the 5CSRTT, the male SHRs’ performance in the massed group matched prior literature (they performed worse than the massed females). Spacing however, caused the male SHRs to perform as well as the spaced females, closing the sex gap. It is important to note that this sex difference also only occurred in the first training level. Let me know if you need anymore elaboration or want a link to the article I derived this information from!

      1. Thanks, Rebecca! I would love to see the link. Good luck in your future endeavors!

        1. Here’s the link!
          Bayless, D. W., Perez, M. C., & Daniel, J. M. (2015). Comparison of the validity of the use of the spontaneously hypertensive rat as a model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in males and females. Behavioural Brain Research, 286, 85–92. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2015.02.029

  8. Great to see the culmination of all your hard work in IS, Becca! I feel so privileged to have been a small part of your journey in our FYS course and then again this year in my Women, Power and Politics course. I appreciate your passion and engagement you bring to your work, which is also evident in your IS project. Congratulations – and I look forward to seeing what your bright future holds! Best, Prof. Bos

    1. Thanks so much for commenting Dr. Bos! I enjoyed having class with you and seeing you around Wooster all four years!

  9. Very nice presentation and interesting results. Thank you!

  10. Thanks for sharing your research today Rebecca! I’m kind of excited that we landed on this for your IS, and one of my students will continue this line of research next year. If you had one experimental suggestion and one “how to survive an IS in the rodent lab” suggestion for her, what would they be?

    1. Thank you for commenting! I am so excited to continue this research as well. My main advice would be to have fun with it, as cheesy as that sounds, I really mean it. The SHRs are very funny creatures who are loaded with personality and it was so fun getting to hang out with them after class everyday. Not everyone is a rat person though, and if that’s the case, it is important to remember that all of this is leading up to something and that your work is important. Never forget why you’re doing what you’re doing!

  11. Hi Rebecca–I really enjoyed reading about your study, which sounds like a great study design (to a layperson) on such an important topic. It’s amazing to me, as one familiar with the importance of spacing, that there has been so little work on it! Do you have plans for the future of this research or advocacy? Thanks and congratulations!

    1. Hi Dr. Eager! Thank you for taking the time to learn about my study! I was amazed very little research had been done as well. My advisor is actually planning on doing a follow-up independent study with a new senior this coming fall! We will then create a large paper from the results of both studies! My advisor and I both agreed there are still many questions to be answered regarding this exciting topic so we are excited to broaden our knowledge on the topic!

  12. Great job, Rebecca! Congratulations on completing your IS. I’d love to see a future study done about the effectiveness of this strategy in lots of different scenarios. Are there any other tactics you would be interested in researching in the future? What is next for you after graduation?

    1. Hello and thank you for your comment! I am mainly interested in seeing what would happen if we spaced out TR4 and TR5 (the harder training levels) for a longer period of time. I believe that the spaced SHRs would have shown a significant difference if they had, had a longer time to learn the new parameters for the task. My plans after graduation are to work in a research lab at an institution (currently waiting to hear back from a few places but hiring is frozen due to the pandemic) and then to go into clinical psychology for graduate school! I want to study emotional regulation in children with ADHD and further my knowledge on tactics to help children with ADHD in general.

  13. Wow! This is so fascinating, Rebecca! I truly am so intrigued and had no idea that rats even existed with ADD/ADHD traits. How do you know the rats have these same tendencies, out of curiosity? Also, do you have a sense of how this research would translate to different aged students? Congratulations on completing your IS—such a huge accomplishment and lots to be proud of! Nice job!!

    1. Thank you for taking interest in my study! The SHRs are bred to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. I am not 100% sure how they do it, but it is pretty simple to tell the difference between an SHR and a “normal” rat. SHRs will spend most of their day running around their cage, playing with each other, and also, in tasks such as the 5CSRTT and the open field, show more ADHD-like symptoms than other rats. I love your next question on how this may translate to different aged students! I honestly believe all students should institute spacing into their learning if it is feasible, especially students with ADHD. I also believe it would probably be easier for older students to use spacing in their daily learning than it would be for young children because they have a better sense of their limits and abilities.

  14. Hello! I am a junior from Parish Episcopal School. This was a very interesting research project, and I am glad you are studying this. It seems as that the data would be very useful in the real world as well! I am glad that you all are able to take on opportunities like this at Wooster. I am interested in going into the STEM fields as well.

    1. Thank you for taking interest in my research!! The STEM fields are very important and I am glad you would like to do research in them. Wooster really helped me nurture my ideas and made this project a breeze to get through. Hope you consider applying!

  15. Arrived late to the live Q&A but very interesting stuff. I downloaded the slides to read in a spaced study session. Great work!

  16. I love this project & your passion for it!! Your dedication and thoughtfulness is so inspiring. Congratulations on this amazing research– I can’t wait to hear all about more research you’ll end up doing! <3

  17. Hey Rebecca! Great job. I completed my final lab report using your data for Behavioral Neuroscience and I must say I can attest to how hard you work. Your data set and supplemental information were amazing! Lovely job and I am glad to see everything that came from the data. Congratulations and I wish you the best 🙂

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