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A bout analysis of operant response disruption

Brackney, Ryan J., Cheung, Timothy H.C., Sanabria, Federico
Behavioural processes 2017 v.141 pp. 42-49
animal behavior, operant conditioning, rats
Operant behavior appears to be organized in bouts of responses, whose parameters are differentially sensitive to various manipulations. This study investigated potential differential effects of three forms of operant response disruption—extinction (EXT), non-contingent reinforcement (NCR), and prefeeding (PRE)—on response bouts. In Experiment 1, Wistar Kyoto rats (WKY) were trained on a tandem variable-time (VT) 120s fixed-ratio (FR) 5 schedule of reinforcement; after stability was established, their responding was disrupted for three sessions with one of the three disrupters (EXT, NCR, or PRE). In Experiment 2, Long Evans (LE) rats were trained on a tandem VT 240s FR 5 to stability, and their responding disrupted with EXT or NCR. In EXT and NCR, response rates declined significantly and progressively over the course of the session, primarily due to a declining bout-initiation rate in EXT, and to fewer responses per bout in NCR. In contrast, a session-wide drop in response rate was observed in PRE, primarily due to a reduction in bout-initiation rate at the start of the session. These findings suggest that each form of disruption differentially impacts dissociable aspects of behavior. Theories of behavioral persistence should account for these functional relations, which appear to be obscured in response rate measures.