D'Aquila, Paolo Stefano and Galistu, Adriana (2017) Within-session decrement of the emission of licking bursts following reward devaluation in rats licking for sucrose. PLoS One, Vol. 12 (5), e0177705. ISSN 1932-6203. Article.
We previously observed that dopamine D2-like receptor blockade in rats licking for sucrose produced a within-session decrement of the emission of licking bursts similar to the effect of either reward devaluation, or neuroleptics, on operant responding for different rewards, which, accordingly, we interpreted as an extinction-like effect. This implies that exposing animals to reward devaluation would result in a drop of burst number taking place only after the contact with the devalued reward. To test this prediction, we compared the difference in the within-session time course of burst number in response to high (10%) versus low (2%) concentration sucrose solutions, either in a condition of reward devaluation (exposure to 2% after daily 10%), or in a condition which does not involve changes in the reward value (two groups of subjects each repeatedly exposed to only one of the two concentrations). Reward devaluation resulted in a within-session decrement of the burst number, with the response rate dropping only after the contact with the devalued reward, as predicted. This response pattern was reliably observed only in subjects at their first devaluation experience. In contrast, exposure of separate groups of animals to the two different concentrations yielded lower levels of burst number in the low concentration group apparent since the beginning of the session, as previously observed with dopamine D1-like receptor blockade. These results show that the analysis of burst number, but not of burst size, reveals a specific activation pattern in response to reward devaluation, which differs from the pattern observed comparing the response to two different sucrose concentrations in separate groups of subjects, i.e. in a condition not involving reward devaluation. Finally, the characterisation of the experimental measures of the analysis of licking microstructure in behaviourally (and psychologically) meaningful functional terms, might be relevant for the investigation of the mechanisms underlying behavioural activation and the related evaluation processes.
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