Percept Mot Skills 2003 Aug;97(1):259-70
Nipissing University, Ontario, Canada.
Past animal studies of the performance-enhancing properties of stimulant drugs, such as caffeine, may have suffered from a number of procedural and ethical problems. For example. the housing condition of the animals was often not taken into consideration. As well, endurance tests, such as the forced swim task, sometimes involved ethically (and procedurally) questionable interference with natural swimming behaviour. Some of the manipulations, such as attaching a weight to the swimming animal's tail to increase the difficulty of the task and using mortality as a dependent variable, seem grotesque, even unnecessary. In this experiment, the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine in a modified forced swim task and a dominance task were evaluated using male and female rats as subjects (N=60), housed in either enriched or isolated environments. Analysis indicated that rats respond to caffeine as an interactive function of sex, housing, dose, and task characteristics. It was concluded that performance-enhancing properties of stimulant drugs may be the result of a complex interplay of variables, making simple generalizations questionable.