, Volume 225, Issue 2, pp 381–395 | Cite as

Differential effects of environmental enrichment, social-housing, and isolation-rearing on a rat gambling task: Dissociations between impulsive action and risky decision-making

  • Fiona D. ZeebEmail author
  • Adeline C. Wong
  • Catharine A. WinstanleyEmail author
Original Investigation



Decision-making deficits, measured using the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), are observed in many psychiatric populations. Additionally, evidence suggests that the environment also influences the development of these same disorders.


To determine the direct influence of the environment on decision-making by utilizing the rat gambling task (rGT), a risky decision-making test modeled after the IGT.


Male rats reared in isolation, in pairs, or in an enriched environment were trained on the rGT as adults. During the rGT, animals chose from four different options. The optimal strategy on the rGT and IGT is the same: to favor options associated with smaller immediate rewards and less punishment/loss. Impulsive action is also measured during rGT performance by recording the number of premature responses made, similar to the five-choice serial reaction time task.


Compared to pair-housed rats, isolated and environmentally enriched rats were slower at learning the optimal strategy. However, following training, only isolation-reared rats chose the disadvantageous options more often. Amphetamine altered decision-making on the rGT in socially housed animals, yet isolates were unaffected. Conversely, amphetamine increased premature responding similarly in all groups. This increase was attenuated by prior administration of a dopamine D1 or D2 antagonist; however, the ability of amphetamine to alter decision-making was not blocked by either drug.


Housing environment affects animals’ ability to learn and perform a decision-making task. Additionally, amphetamine’s effect on impulsive action appears to be mediated by the dopaminergic system, whereas its effect on risky decision-making may be mediated by other neurotransmitters.


Amphetamine Decision-making Dopamine Environmental enrichment Impulsivity Isolation 



This work was supported by an operating grant awarded to CAW from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). CAW also receives salary support through the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the CIHR New Investigator Award program. We would like to thank Chris McKinnon for his enthusiasm and invaluable technical assistance.

Conflict of interest

CAW has previously consulted for Theravance on an unrelated matter. No authors have any other conflicts of interest or financial disclosures to make.

Supplementary material

213_2012_2822_MOESM1_ESM.docx (37 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 36 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Section of BiopsychologyCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada

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