Histamine H(3) receptor antagonists have been proposed as potentially useful therapeutic agents for the treatment of several disorders including attention deficit, schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer's disease. We have developed a repeated acquisition version of an inhibitory avoidance task using spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) pups that we believe provides a reproducible measure of the cognitive and attention deficits often characteristic of these disease states, and evaluated two H(3) receptor antagonists. Male SHR, Wistar (WI) and Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rat pups (20--24 days old) were trained to avoid a mild footshock (0.1 mA, 1 s duration), delivered when the pup had transferred from a brightly lit to a darkened compartment. After the first trial, the pup was removed and returned to its home cage. One minute later, the same pup was replaced in the brightly-lit compartment and the training process repeated. A total of five trials were recorded. SHR pups performed significantly more poorly than WI or WKY pups using this training schedule, and SHR pups were used for all subsequent studies. Methylphenidate and ABT-418, both clinically active in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), were tested to validate the model. Methylphenidate (1 and 3 mg/kg s.c.) and ABT-418 (0.03 mg/kg s.c.) significantly improved SHR pup performance. The H(3) receptor antagonists GT-2331 (1 mg/kg s.c.) and ciproxifan (3 mg/kg s.c.), also significantly, and in a dose-related manner, enhanced performance of the SHR pups. (R)-alpha-methylhistamine (3 mg/kg s.c.) blocked the pro-cognitive effects of ciproxifan, suggesting an H(3) receptor site of action for this compound. This model is useful for evaluating the cognition/attention-enhancing potential of H(3) receptor antagonists.