Main content area

Mechanisms of impulsive choice: III. The role of reward processes

Marshall, Andrew T., Kirkpatrick, Kimberly
Behavioural processes 2016 v.123 pp. 134-148
animal behavior, pellets, rats
Two experiments examined the relationship between reward processing and impulsive choice. In Experiment 1, rats chose between a smaller-sooner (SS) reward (1 pellet, 10s) and a larger-later (LL) reward (1, 2, and 4 pellets, 30s). The rats then experienced concurrent variable-interval 30-s schedules with variations in reward magnitude to evaluate reward magnitude discrimination. LL choice behavior positively correlated with reward magnitude discrimination. In Experiment 2, rats chose between an SS reward (1 pellet, 10s) and an LL reward (2 and 4 pellets, 30s). The rats then received either a reward intervention which consisted of concurrent fixed-ratio schedules associated with different magnitudes to improve their reward magnitude discrimination, or a control task. All rats then experienced a post-intervention impulsive choice task followed by a reward magnitude discrimination task to assess intervention efficacy. The rats that received the intervention exhibited increases in post-intervention LL choice behavior, and made more responses for larger-reward magnitudes in the reward magnitude discrimination task, suggesting that the intervention heightened sensitivities to reward magnitude. The results suggest that reward magnitude discrimination plays a key role in individual differences in impulsive choice, and could be a potential target for further intervention developments.