Behavior Research Methods

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 1169–1176 | Cite as

Home cage testing of delay discounting in rats

  • S. Koot
  • W. Adriani
  • L. Saso
  • R. van den Bos
  • G. Laviola


Testing rodents in their home cages has become increasingly popular. Since human intervention, handling, and transport are minimized, behavior can be recorded undisturbed and continuously. Currently existing home cage systems are too complex if only relatively simple operant-learning tests are to be carried out in rats. For that purpose, a new low-cost computer-controlled operant panel was designed, which can be placed inside the home cage. A pilot study was carried out, using an intolerance-to-delay protocol, classically developed for testing behavioral impulsivity. Male adult rats were tested in their home cages, containing the operant panel provided with nosepoking holes. Nose poking in one hole resulted in the immediate delivery of one food pellet (small-soon, SS), whereas nose poking in the other hole delivered five food pellets after a delay (large-late), which was increased progressively each day (0–150 sec). The two daily sessions, spaced 8 h apart, lasted 1 h each, and the time-out after food delivery was 90 sec. A clear-cut shift toward preference for SS, which is considered a classical index of cognitive impulsivity, was shown at the longest delay. It is noteworthy that rats shifted when the delay interval was longer than the mean intertrial interval—that is, when they experienced more than one delay-equivalent odds against discounting (see Adriani & Laviola, 2006). The shortened training (2 days) and testing (5 days) phases, as allowed by prolonged and multiple daily sessions, can be advantageous in testing rodents during selected short phases of development. Current research is focusing on further validation of this and similar protocols.


Home Cage Delay Interval Delay Discount Large Reward Impulsive Choice 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Koot
    • 1
    • 2
  • W. Adriani
    • 1
  • L. Saso
    • 3
  • R. van den Bos
    • 2
  • G. Laviola
    • 1
  1. 1.Behavioral Neuroscience Section, Department of Cell Biology and NeurosciencesIstituto Superiore di SanitàRomeItaly
  2. 2.Utrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Sapienza UniversityRomeItaly

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