• Article

Effects of volatile inhalants on sensorimotor reactivity in rats

Abusers of inhaled solvents may show impaired cognitive functioning as reflected in problems with short-term memory and attention. In the present study, we examined the effects of the abused solvents toluene, m-xylene and 1,1,1-trichloroethane in an acoustic startle paradigm which included tests for pre-pulse inhibition (PPI). This procedure has been used to model sensorimotor reactivity and gating, pre-attentional processes that may be disrupted by mental illness, substance abuse or drug withdrawal. Following exposure to an inhalant vapor or to air, rats were placed in startle chambers in which they were exposed to loud: [120 dB] acoustic pulses presented alone or preceded by a less intense pre-pulse: [85 dB]. Results were compared to those obtained with the depressants ethanol, pentobarbital and methoxyflurane, which have many acute behavioral effects in common with those of abused solvents. As expected, these depressants only decreased startle amplitudes during pulse alone trials and had no effect on PPI. Although solvent vapors also had no effect on PPI, they did not decrease startle amplitudes in pulse alone trials, at least at the concentrations tested. In fact, toluene robustly increased startle amplitude. The lack of effect of the abused solvents on PPI does not provide support for an hypothesis that acute effects of vapors on attention and early information processing is a basis for cognitive deficits in solvent abusers


Wiley, J., Bowen, S. E., & Balster, R. L. (2001). Effects of volatile inhalants on sensorimotor reactivity in rats. Addiction Biology, 6(1), 35-43.