Pramipexole and other direct dopamine agonist medications have been implicated in the development of impulsive behavior such as pathological gambling among those taking the drug to control symptoms of Parkinson’s disease or restless leg syndrome. Few laboratory studies examining pramipexole’s effects on gambling-like behavior have been conducted.
The present study used a rodent model approximating some aspects of human gambling to examine within-subject effects of acute pramipexole (0.03, 0.1, 0.18, & 0.3 mg/kg) on rat’s choices to earn food reinforcement by completing variable-ratio (i.e., gambling-like) or fixed-ratio response requirements.
In a condition in which the variable-ratio alternative was rarely selected, all but the lowest dose of pramipexole significantly increased choice of the variable-ratio alternative (an average of 15% above saline).. The same doses did not affect choice significantly in a control condition designed to evaluate the involvement of nonspecific drug effects. Pramipexole increased latencies to initiate trials (+ 9.12 s) and to begin response runs on forced-choice trials (variable-ratio: + 0.21 s; fixed-ratio: + 0.88 s), but did not affect measures of response perseveration (conditional probabilities of “staying”).
The findings are consistent with clinical reports linking pramipexole to the expression of increased gambling in humans. Results are discussed in the context of neurobehavioral evidence suggesting that dopamine agonists increase sensitivity to reward delay and disrupt appropriate feedback from negative outcomes.
pramipexole; dopamine agonist; gambling; impulsive behavior; Parkinson’s disease; rat
Naturally occurring impulsive choice has been found to positively predict alcohol consumption in rats. However, the extent to which experimental manipulation of impulsive choice may modify alcohol consumption remains unclear. In the present study, we sought to: (a) train low levels of impulsive choice in rats using early, prolonged exposure to reward delay, and (b) determine the effects of this manipulation on subsequent alcohol consumption. During a prolonged training regimen, three groups of male, adolescent Long-Evans rats (21-22 days old at intake) responded on a single lever for food rewards delivered after either a progressively increasing delay, a fixed delay, or no delay. Post-tests of impulsive choice were conducted, as was an evaluation of alcohol consumption using a limited-access, two-bottle test. Following delay-exposure training, both groups of delay-exposed rats made significantly fewer impulsive choices than did rats in the no-delay group. In addition, fixed-delay rats consumed significantly more alcohol during daily, 30-min sessions than no-delay rats. Possible mechanisms of these effects are discussed, as is the significance of these findings to nonhuman models of addiction.
impulsive choice; delay discounting; alcohol self-administration; lever press; rat
Pramipexole (PPX) is a dopamine agonist medication that has been implicated in the development of pathological gambling and other impulse control disorders. Johnson, Madden, Brewer, Pinkston, and Fowler (2011) reported that PPX increased male rats’ preference for gambling-like rewards (those arranged according to a variable-ratio schedule) over predictable rewards (those obtained from a fixed-ratio schedule). The present experiment explored the possibility that Johnson et al. underestimated the effects of PPX on gambling-like choices by constraining their rats’ daily income. In the present experiment conducted in a closed economy, PPX produced a dose-related increase in choice of the gambling-like alternative. In a control condition, PPX did not disrupt choice, suggesting the increased preference for gambling-like rewards was not due to nonspecific drug effects. Our findings are qualitatively consistent with those of Johnson et al., although the dose-related effect and larger effect size in the current study suggest that the effect of PPX on gambling-like choices is more pronounced when income was not constrained. This finding is consistent with clinical reports suggesting PPX is related to the development of problem gambling in humans.
pramipexole; dopamine agonist; gambling; Parkinson’s disease; rat
Delay discounting describes the decline in the value of a reinforcer as the delay to that reinforcer increases. A review of the available studies revealed that steep delay discounting is positively correlated with problem or pathological gambling. One hypothesis regarding this correlation derives from the discounting equation proposed by Mazur (1989). According to the equation, steeper discounting renders the difference between fixed-delayed rewards and gambling-like variable-delayed rewards larger; with the latter being more valuable. The present study was designed to test this prediction by first assessing rats’ impulsive choices across four delays to a larger-later reinforcer. A second condition quantified strength of preference for mixed- over fixed-delays, with the duration of the latter adjusted between sessions to achieve indifference. Strength of preference for the mixed-delay alternative is given by the fixed delay at indifference (lower fixed-delay values reflect stronger preferences). Percent impulsive choice was not correlated with the value of the fixed delay at indifference and, therefore, the prediction of the hyperbolic model of gambling was not supported. A follow-up assessment revealed a significant decrease in impulsive choice after the second condition. This shift in impulsive choice could underlie the failure to observe the predicted correlation between impulsive choice and degree of preference for mixed- over fixed delays.
Delay discounting; impulsivity; delay; gambling; rat
This experiment was conducted to test predictions of two behavioral-economic approaches to quantifying relative reinforcer efficacy. According to the first of these approaches, characteristics of averaged normalized demand curves may be used to predict progressive-ratio breakpoints and peak responding. The second approach, the demand analysis, rejects the concept of reinforcer efficacy, arguing instead that traditional measures of relative reinforcer efficacy (breakpoint, peak response rate, and choice) correspond to specific characteristics of non-normalized demand curves. The accuracy of these predictions was evaluated in rats' responding for food or fat: two reinforcers known to function as partial substitutes. Consistent with the first approach, predicted peak normalized response output values (Omax) obtained under single-schedule conditions ordinally predicted progressive-ratio breakpoints and peak responding. Predictions of the demand analysis had mixed success. Pmax and Omax were significantly correlated with PR breakpoints and peak responding (respectively) when fat, but not when food, was the reinforcer. Relative consumption of food and fat under single schedules of reinforcement did not predict preference better than chance. The normalized demand analysis is supplemented with the economic concept of diminishing marginal utility, to predict preference shifts across the range of food and fat prices examined.
behavioral economics; relative reinforcer efficacy; substitute; minimum-needs; rat; lever press
Clinical reports, primarily with Parkinson’s patients, note an association between the prescribed use of pramipexole (and other direct-acting dopamine agonist medications) and impulse control disorders, particularly pathological gambling. Two experiments examined the effects of acute pramipexole on rats’ impulsive choices where impulsivity was defined as selecting a smaller-sooner over a larger-later food reward. In Experiment 1, pramipexole (0.1 to 0.3 mg/kg) significantly increased impulsive choices in a condition in which few impulsive choices were made during a stable baseline. In a control condition, in which impulsive choices predominated during baseline, pramipexole did not significantly change the same rats’ choices. Experiment 2 explored a wider range of doses (0.01 to 0.3 mg/kg) using a choice procedure in which delays to the larger-later reinforcer delivery increased across trial blocks within each session. At the doses used in Experiment 1, pramipexole shifted choice toward indifference regardless of the operative delay. At lower doses of pramipexole (0.01 & 0.03 mg/kg), a trend toward more impulsive choice was observed at the 0.03 mg/kg dose. The difference in outcomes across experiments may be due to the more complex discriminations required in Experiment 2; i.e., multiple discriminations between changing delays within each session.
Pramipexole; D2/D3 agonist; Impulsivity; Choice; Gambling
The biobehavioral mechanism(s) mediating bupropion’s efficacy are not well understood. Behavioral economic measures such as demand curves have proven useful in investigations of the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse. Behavioral economic measures may also be used to measure the effect of pharmacotherapies on the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse.
The effects of bupropion on simulated demand for cigarettes were investigated in a placebo-controlled double-blind clinical trial. Participants reported the number of cigarettes they would purchase and consume in a single day at a range of prices. The effects of medication on the subjective effects of smoking were also explored.
Demand for cigarettes was well described by an exponential demand equation. Bupropion did not significantly decrease the maximum number of cigarettes that participants said they would smoke in a single day nor did it significantly alter the relation between price per cigarette and demand. Baseline demand elasticity did not predict smoking cessation, but changes in elasticity following 1 week of treatment did. Medication group had no effect on any subjective effects of smoking.
Bupropion had no significant effects on demand for cigarettes. The exponential demand equation, recently introduced in behavioral economics, proved amenable to human simulated demand and might be usefully employed in other pharmacotherapy studies as it provides a potentially useful measure of changes in the essential value of the drug as a reinforcer. Such changes may be useful in predicting the efficacy of medications designed to reduce drug consumption.
Nineteen treatment-seeking men meeting DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling and 19 demographic-matched controls participated. Participants provided demographic information, information about their recent drug-use and gambling activities, and biological samples (to confirm drug abstinence). They also completed the Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), and two questionnaires designed to separately quantify probability and delay discounting. Pathological gamblers discounted probabilistic rewards significantly less steeply than matched controls. A significant correlation revealed that more shallow probability discounting was associated with higher SOGS scores. Across groups, there was no significant difference in delay discounting, although this difference approached significance when education and ethnicity were included as covariates. These findings, collected for the first time with pathological gamblers, are consistent with previous reports that problem-gambling college students discount probabilistic rewards less steeply than controls. The nature of the relation between probability discounting and severity of problem gambling is deserving of further study.
probability discounting; pathological gambling; delay discounting; SOGS
Previous research has shown that Lewis rats make more impulsive choices than Fischer 344 rats. Such strain-related differences in choice are important as they may provide an avenue for exploring genetic and neurochemical contributions to impulsive choice. The present systematic replication was designed to determine if these findings could be reproduced using a procedure less susceptible to within- or between-session carry-over effects that may have affected previous findings. Specifically, delays to the larger–later food reinforcer were manipulated between conditions following steady-state assessments of choice, and the order of delays across conditions was mixed. The results confirmed previous findings that Lewis rats made significantly more impulsive choices than Fischer 344 rats. Fischer 344 rats' preference for the larger–later reinforcer, on the other hand, was less extreme than reported in prior research, which may be due to carry-over effects inherent to the commonly used technique of systematically increasing delays within session. Previously reported across-strain motor differences were reproduced as Lewis rats had shorter latencies than Fischer 344 rats, although these latencies were not correlated with impulsive choice. Parallels between reduced dopamine function in Lewis rats and clinical reports of impulse-control disorders following treatment of Parkinson patients with selective D2/D3 dopamine agonists are discussed.
Fischer 344 rats; Lewis rats; choice; impulsivity; delay-discounting; rat; lever press
Lewis rats have been shown to make more impulsive choices than Fischer 344 rats in discrete-trial choice procedures that arrange fixed (i.e., nontitrating) reinforcement parameters. However, nontitrating procedures yield only gross estimates of preference, as choice measures in animal subjects are rarely graded at the level of the individual subject. The present study was designed to examine potential strain differences in delay discounting using an adjusting-amount procedure, in which distributed (rather than exclusive) choice is observed due to dynamic titration of reinforcer magnitude across trials. Using a steady-state version of the adjusting-amount procedure in which delay was manipulated between experimental conditions, steeper delay discounting was observed in Lewis rats compared to Fischer 344 rats; further, delay discounting in both strains was well described by the traditional hyperbolic discounting model. However, upon partial completion of the present study, a study published elsewhere (Wilhelm & Mitchell, 2009) demonstrated no difference in delay discounting between these strains with the use of a more rapid version of the adjusting-amount procedure (i.e., in which delay is manipulated daily). Thus, following completion of the steady-state assessment in the present study, all surviving Lewis and Fischer 344 rats completed an approximation of this rapid-determination procedure in which no strain difference in delay discounting was observed.
Lewis rats; Fischer 344 rats; delay discounting; adjusting amount; impulsive choice; lever press; rat
This experiment was conducted to test the predictions of two behavioral-economic approaches to quantifying relative reinforcer efficacy. The normalized demand analysis suggests that characteristics of averaged normalized demand curves may be used to predict progressive-ratio breakpoints and peak responding. By contrast, the demand analysis holds that traditional measures of relative reinforcer efficacy (breakpoint, peak response rate, and choice) correspond to specific characteristics of non-normalized demand curves. The accuracy of these predictions was evaluated in rats' responding for food or water: two reinforcers known to function as complements. Consistent with the first approach, predicted peak normalized response output values obtained under single-schedule conditions ordinally predicted progressive-ratio breakpoints and peak response rates obtained in a separate condition. Combining the minimum-needs hypothesis with the normalized demand analysis helped to interpret prior findings, but was less useful in predicting choice between food and water—two strongly complementary reinforcers. Predictions of the demand analysis had mixed success. Peak response outputs predicted from the non-normalized water demand curves were significantly correlated with obtained peak responding for water in a separate condition, but none of the remaining three predicted correlations was statistically significant. The demand analysis fared better in predicting choice—relative consumption of food and water under single schedules of reinforcement predicted preference under concurrent schedules significantly better than chance.
behavioral economics; relative reinforcer efficacy; complement; minimum-needs; rat; lever press
The behavioral economic concept of unit price predicts that consumption and response output (labor supply) are determined by the unit price at which a good is available regardless of the value of the cost and benefit components of the unit price ratio. Experiment 1 assessed 4 pigeons' consumption and response output at a range of unit prices. In one condition, food was available according to a range of fixed-ratio schedules, whereas in the other condition, food was available according to a range of random-ratio schedules. Consistent with unit price predictions, consumption and response output were approximately equivalent across schedule types within the lower range of unit prices. However, at Unit Prices 64 (ratio value = 192) and greater, considerably more consumption and response output were observed in the random-ratio condition. Experiment 2 replicated these findings with 4 pigeons using the rapid demand curve assay procedure that is commonly used in the behavioral economics literature. Findings are integrated with two mathematical models of behavior under variable reinforcer delays.
unit price; behavioral economics; fixed ratio; random ratio; consumption; closed economy; key peck; pigeon
The present experiment was concerned with the role of environment in the production and form of apomorphine-induced pecking of pigeons. Previous literature has suggested that the pecking occurs even when pigeons are placed in complete darkness, but there are no systematic or quantitative reports of such pecking. Six pigeons were tested with doses of 0.1, 0.3, and 1.0 mg/kg apomorphine. Tests were made in conditions of white and infrared light. The apparatus employed novel force transduction measures that provided for both the detection of a peck as well as its peak forcefulness. At the lowest dose tested, apomorphine elicited pecking when the pigeon was placed in white light, but not when the dose was examined under infrared lighting. As the dose increased, however, pecking was observed regardless of lighting condition. No differences were found in forcefulness of pecking as a function of lighting condition or dose. Though response output was seemingly unaffected by the lighting condition at higher doses, videotaped analysis revealed important changes in the formal characteristics of pecking. In white light, apomorphine elicited pecking at stimuli in the chamber (e.g., screw heads or the pigeon’s own toes), whereas in infrared light pecking was directed at the floor directly in front of the pigeon. Such differences may be attributable to shifts in control to other stimulus modalities when vision in limited. Additionally, apomorphine may have direct effects on retinal dopamine function modulating the expression of pecking in the dark.
Apomorphine; Stereotypy; Infrared light; White light; Force; Pigeon; Peck
The reproducibility of experimental outcomes depends on consistent control of independent variables. In food-maintained operant performance, it is of utmost importance that the quantity of food delivered is reliable. To that end, some commercial food pellet dispensers have add-on attachments to sense the delivery of pellets. Not all companies, however, offer such add-ons. Aside from availability, cost and temporary reduction in throughput may be a problem for smaller labs. The present paper outlines our recent development of a simple, inexpensive infrared device to detect and confirm the delivery of pellets. The in-line construction of the detector routes the falling pellet through a barrel so that it passes between an infrared emitter and receiver. The circuitry was designed to be compatible with all commercially available behavioral measurement systems, and so may be retrofit to any existing system. Our tests with the detector so far have shown that it is 100% accurate in detecting pellet delivery. The individual unit cost is approximately 25 dollars. The low cost and versatility of the device offer an easy method to ensure the integrity of food delivery in operant settings.
pellet; detection; infrared; reliability
Competing theories regarding the effects of delivering periodic response-independent reinforcement (more accurately, response-independent points exchanged for money) on a baseline rate of behavior were evaluated in human subjects. Contiguity theory holds that these events decrease target responding because incompatible behavior is adventitiously strengthened when the point deliveries follow target behavior closely in time. Matching theory holds that response-independent points, like any other alternative reinforcer, should reduce target responding. On this view, temporal contiguity between target responding and response-independent point delivery is unimportant. In our experiment, four different responses (moving a joystick in four different directions) were reinforced with points exchangeable for money according to four independent variable-interval schedules. Different schedules of point delivery were then superimposed on these baselines. When all superimposed point deliveries occurred immediately after one of the four responses (the target response), time allocated to target responding increased. When the superimposed point deliveries could be delivered at any time, time allocated to target responding declined and other behavior increased. When superimposed points could never immediately follow target responses, time allocated to target responding decreased further and other behavior or pausing predominated. The findings underscore the contribution of temporal contiguity in the effects of response-independent deliveries of food, money, points, etc.
Ideal free distribution theory predicts that foragers will form groups proportional in number to the resources available in alternative resource sites or patches, a phenomenon termed habitat matching. Three experiments tested this prediction with college students in discrete-trial simulations and a free-operant simulation. Sensitivity to differences in programmed reinforcement rates was quantified by using the sensitivity parameter of the generalized matching law (s). The first experiment, replicating prior published experiments, produced a greater degree of undermatching for the initial choice (s = 0.59) compared to final choices (s = 0.86). The second experiment, which extended prior findings by allowing only one choice per trial, produced comparable undermatching (s = 0.82). The third experiment used free-operant procedures more typical of laboratory studies of habitat matching with other species and produced the most undermatching (s = 0.71). The results of these experiments replicated previous results with human groups, supported predictions of the ideal free distribution, and suggested that undermatching represents a systematic deviation from the ideal free distribution. These results are consistent with a melioration account of individual behavior as the basis for group choice.