Instrumental conditioning for food reinforcement in the spontaneously hypertensive rat model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Rostron, Claire L.; Gaeta, Victoria; Brace, Louise R. and Dommett, Eleanor J. (2017). Instrumental conditioning for food reinforcement in the spontaneously hypertensive rat model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. BMC Research Notes, 10, article no. 525.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13104-017-2857-5

Abstract

Background: The spontaneously hypertensive rat is thought to show good validity as a model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, in part because of impaired delayed reinforcement behaviour, corresponding to the dynamic developmental theory of the disorder. However, some previous studies may have been confounded use of fluid reward. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the spontaneously hypertensive rat and two comparison strains (Wistar and Wistar Kyoto) using a non-delayed food reinforcement paradigm in an attempt to advance knowledge of basic learnt behaviour in this strain, without potentially confounding reward sensitivity, which could impact on motivation to learn. Rats were trained on a fixed ratio 1 two choice discrimination schedule, extinction, reacquisition and reversal. We also tested non-reinforced spontaneous alternation to facilitate data interpretation.

Results: The spontaneously hypertensive rat displayed slower shaping and reduced on task activity during task acquisition, contrasting with previous results which indicate either enhanced responding and an impairment only when a delay is used; we suggest several reasons for this. In line with previous work, the same strain exhibited poor extinguishing of behaviour but were not impaired to the same extent on reversal of the discrimination. Finally, non-reinforced alternations on a Y-maze were also reduced in the spontaneously hypertensive rat.

Conclusions: In sum, the spontaneously hypertensive rat appear to show poor response inhibition in reinforced and non-reinforced contexts. However, impaired response inhibition was reduced during reversal when an opposite response produced food reward alongside presentation of the conditioned stimulus. We discuss the possibility of enhanced attribution of incentive salience to cues in this strain and highlight several points of caution for researchers conducting behavioural assessments using the spontaneously hypertensive rat and their associated comparison strains.

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