Ethanol induces impulsive-like responding in a delay-of-reward operant choice procedure: impulsivity predicts autoshaping
Autoshaping conditioned responses (CRs) are reflexive and targeted motor responses expressed as a result of experience with reward. To evaluate the hypothesis that autoshaping may be a form of impulsive responding, within-subjects correlations between performance on autoshaping and impulsivity tasks were assessed in 15 Long-Evans hooded rats. Autoshaping procedures [insertion of retractable lever conditioned stimulus (CS) followed by the response-independent delivery of food (US)] were followed by testing for impulsive-like responding in a two-choice lever-press operant delay-of-reward procedure (immediate small food reward versus delayed large food reward). Delay-of-reward functions revealed two distinct subject populations. Subjects in the Sensitive group (n=7) were more impulsive-like, increasing immediate reward choices at longer delays for large reward, while those in the Insensitive group (n=8) responded predominantly on only one lever. During the prior autoshaping phase, the Sensitive group had performed more autoshaping CRs, and correlations revealed that impulsive subjects acquired the autoshaping CR in fewer trials. In the Sensitive group, acute injections of ethanol (0, 0.25, 0.50, 1.00, 1.50 g/kg) given immediately before delay-of-reward sessions yielded an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve with increased impulsivity induced by the 0.25, 0.50, and 1.00 g/kg doses of ethanol, while choice strategy of the Insensitive group was not influenced by ethanol dose. Ethanol induced impulsive-like responding only in rats that were flexible in their response strategy (Sensitive group), and this group also performed more autoshaping CRs. Data support the hypothesis that autoshaping and impulsivity are linked.
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