A stop-signal task for sheep: Introduction and validation of a direct measure for the stop-signal reaction time

Sebastian McBride, Franziska Knoll, James Stewart, Rita Gonzalez, Jenny Morton

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Huntington’s disease (HD) patients show reduced flexibility in inhibiting an already-started response. This can be quantified by the stop-signal task. The aim of this study was to develop and validate a sheep version of the stop-signal task that would be suitable for monitoring the progression of cognitive decline in a transgenic sheep model of HD. Using a semi-automated operant system,
sheep were trained to perform in a two-choice discrimination task. In 22% of the trials, a stop-signal was presented. Upon the stop-signal presentation, the sheep had to inhibit their already-started response. The stopping behaviour
was captured using an accelerometer mounted on the back of the sheep. This set-up provided a direct read-out of the individual stop-signal reaction time (SSRT). We also estimated the SSRT using the conventional approach of
subtracting the stop-signal delay (i.e., time after which the stop-signal is presented) from the ranked reaction time during a trial without a stop-signal. We found that all sheep could inhibit an already-started response in 91% of the
stop-trials. The directly measured SSRT (0.974 ± 0.04 s) was not significantly different from the estimated SSRT (0.938 ± 0.04 s). The sheep version of the stop-signal task adds to the repertoire of tests suitable for investigating both
cognitive dysfunction and efficacy of therapeutic agents in sheep models of neurodegenerative disease such as HD, as well as neurological conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-626
JournalAnimal Cognition
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2017


  • two-choice discrimination
  • behaviour
  • go/no-go task
  • ADHD
  • Parkinson's disease


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