The role of discriminative stimuli in modulating drug action

  • Victor G. Laties
Part of the FASEB Monographs book series (FASEBM, volume 4)


Behavior reinforced in the presence of a stimulus comes under the control of the stimulus. A drug can then modify that control and, therefore, modify the behavior itself. Studies over the past 2 decades have shown that the nature of the controlling (or discriminative) stimulus can govern the degree to which drugs change performance. These experiments usually have compared behavior on various schedules of reinforcement with and without added discriminative stimuli. For instance, pigeons that had been trained on a fixed-interval schedule showed great changes in response distribution after amphetamine and scopolamine. The same birds, when performing on a fixed-interval schedule to which time-correlated discriminative stimuli had been added, showed smaller changes in response distribution. Other pigeons were trained to make a minimum number of consecutive responses on one key before a peck on a second key would be reinforced; d-amphetamine and scopolamine led to pronounced increases in premature switching. Adding a discriminative stimulus when the response requirement was fulfilled increased the likelihood that a switch would occur only after the appropriate number of pecks had been emitted. It also attenuated the effects of the drugs. The presence of discriminative stimuli did not make as large a difference in performance in either of these experiments when chlorpromazine and promazine were studied. In general, work with other schedules of reinforcement supports the conclusion that behavior under strong external stimulus control is less apt to be readily affected by many drugs. Addition of the discriminative stimulus can also “improve” the behavior of pigeons that have been given enough methylmercury to increase greatly the variability of their performance. — Laties, V. G. The role of discriminative stimuli in modulating drug action. Federation Proc. 34: 1880–1888, 1975.


Stimulus Control Discriminative Stimulus Multiple Schedule Conditional Probability Function Criminative Stimulus 
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.



fixed consecutive number


differential reinforcement of low rate


fixed ratio one.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Berryman, R., W. Wagman and F. S. Keller. Chlorpromazine and the discrimination of response-produced cues. In: Drugs and Behavior, edited by L. Uhr and J. G. Miller. New York: Wiley 1960, p. 243–249.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Blough, D. S. Technique for studying the effects of drugs on discrimination in the pigeon. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 65: 334–344, 1956.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Carey, R. J., and R. P. Kritkausky. Absence of a response-rate-dependent effect of d-amphetamine on a DRL schedule when reinforcement is signaled. Psychonomic Sci. 26: 285–286, 1972.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dews, P. B. Studies on behavior. I. Differential sensitivity to pentobarbital of pecking performance in pigeons depending on the schedule of reward. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 113: 393–401, 1955.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Dews, P. B. Studies on behavior. II. The effects of pentobarbital, methamphetamine and scopolamine on performances in pigeons involving discriminations. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 115: 380–389, 1955.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Dews, P. B. Modification by drugs of performance on simple schedules of positive reinforcement. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 65: 268–281, 1956.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Dews, P. B. Analysis of effects of psychopharmacological agents in behavioral terms. Federation Proc. 17: 1024–1030, 1958.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Dews, P. B. Studies on behavior. IV. Stimulant actions of methamphetamine. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 122: 137–147, 1958.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Dews, P. B. Pharmacology of positive reinforcement and discrimination. In: Pharmacology of Conditioning, Learning and Retention, edited by M. Ya. Mikhel’son and V. G. Longo. New York: Macmillan, 1965, p. 91–96.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Dews, P. B. Drug-behavior interactions. In: Behavioral Analysis of Drug Action, edited by J. A. Harvey. Glenview, III.: Scott, Foresman, 1971, p. 10–43.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Evans, H. L., V. G. Laties and B. Weiss. Behavioral effects of mercury and methylmercury. Federation Proc. 34: 1858–1867, 1975.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ferster, C. B., and B. F. Skinner, Schedules of Reinforcement. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Fry, W., R. T. Kelleher and L. Cook. A mathematical index of performance on fixed-interval schedules of reinforcement. J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 3: 193–199, 1960.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Hearst, E. Drug effects on stimulus generalization gradients in the monkey. Psychopharmacologia 6: 57–70, 1964.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Heise, G. A., N. Laughlin and C. Keller. A behavioral and pharmacological analysis of reinforcement withdrawal. Psychopharmacologia 16: 345–368, 1970.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Heise, G. A., and N. L. Lilie. Effects of scopolamine, atropine, and d-amphet-amine on internal and external control of responding on non-reinforced trials. Psychopharmacologia 18: 38–49, 1970.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Herrnstein, R.-J. On the law of effect. J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 13: 243–266, 1970.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Holloway, F. A., and R. A. Wansley. Factors governing the vulnerability of DRL operant performance to the effects of ethanol. Psychopharmacologia 28: 351–362, 1973.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kelleher, R. T., and W. H. Morse. Determinants of the specificity of behavioral effects of drugs. Ergeb. Physiol. Biol. Chem. Exp. Pharmakol. 60: 1–56, 1968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Ksir, C. J., Jr. Scopolamine effects on two-trial delayed-response performance in the rat. Psychopharmacologia 34: 127–134, 1974.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Laties, V. G. The modification of drug effects on behavior by external discriminative stimuli, J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 183: 1–13, 1972.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Laties, V. G., and B. Weiss. Influence of drugs on behavior controlled by internal and external stimuli. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 152: 388–396, 1966.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Laties, V. G., and B. Weiss. Behavioral mechanisms of drug action. In: Drugs and the Brain, edited by Perry Black. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969, p. 115–133.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lindsley, O. R. Direct measurement and prosthesis of retarded behavior. J. Educ. 147: 62–81, 1964.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lindsley, O. R. Geriatric behavioral prosthetics. In: New thoughts on old age, edited by R. Kastenbaum. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1964, p. 41–60.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mckearney, J. W. Rate-dependent effects of drugs: Modification by discriminative stimuli of the effects of amobarbital on schedule-controlled behavior. J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 14: 167–175, 1970.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Mcmillan, D. E. The effects of ethyl alcohol on temporally spaced responding in humans. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 171: 159–165, 1970.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Mechner, F. Probability relations within response sequences under ratio reinforcement. J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 1: 109–122, 1958.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Mechner, F., and M. Latranyi. Behavioral effects of caffeine, methamphetamine, and methylphenidate in the rat. J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 6: 331–342, 1963.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Morse, W. H., and R. J. Herrnstein. Effects of drugs on characteristics of behavior maintained by complex schedules of intermittent positive reinforcement. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 65: 303–317, 1956.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Morse, W. H., and R. T. Kelleher. Schedules as fundamental determinants of behavior. In: The Theory of Reinforcement Schedules, edited by W. N. Schoenfeld. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1970, p. 139–185.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Rutledge, L. T., and R. W. Doty. Differential action of chlorpromazine on reflexes conditioned to central and peripheral stimulation. Am. J. Physiol. 191: 189–192, 1957.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Segal, E. F. Exteroceptive control of fixed-interval responding, J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 5: 49–57, 1962.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Sldman, M. Drug-behavior interaction. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 65: 282–302, 1956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Skinner, B. F. The Behavior of Organisms. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1938.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Thomas, J. R. Differential effects of two phenothiazines on chain and tandem performance. J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther. 152: 354–361, 1966.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Thompson, D. M., and P. B. Corr. Behavior parameters of drug action: signalled and response-independent reinforcement. J. Exp. Anal. Behav. 21: 151–158, 1974.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Wagman, W. D., and G. C. Maxey. The effects of scopolamine hydro-bromide and methyl scopolamine hydro-bromide upon the discrimination of interoceptive and exteroceptive stimuli. Psychopharmacologia 15: 280–288, 1969.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wilcoxin, F., and R. A. Wilcox. Some Rapid Approximate Statistical Procedures. Pearl River, N. Y.: Lederle Laboratories, 1964.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Zavadskii, I. V. Experience with the application of the conditioned reflexes method to pharmacology. Toward the problem of the effects of certain drugs (alcohol, morphine, cocaine, and caffeine) on the function of the higher regions of the central nervous system. Tr. Obshchestva Russkikh Vrachei-St. Petersburg 75: (9), 269–287, 1908.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victor G. Laties
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Radiation Biology and BiophysicsUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology and ToxicologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations