Performance of Decorticated Rats on Fixed Interval and Fixed Time Schedules


Correspondence to: Dr David A. Oakley, as above


Rats with neocortex totally removed (decorticates), rats with hippocampal lesions (hippocampals), and their surgical controls, were trained on a fixed interval (FI) 40 s schedule, where the first bar-press response made more than 40 s after a previous reinforcement was rewarded. The decorticates and hippocampals adopted similar patterns of behaviour to the control groups though there were between-group differences in the details of performance. Compared to controls the hippocampals showed shorter post-reinforcement pauses and faster overall rates of responding, whilst the reverse was true of the decorticates. Some of this performance difference in the decorticates was attributed to difficulty in retrieving and consuming solid food reinforcement. The performance of the decorticates and hippocampals, as reflected by the post-reinforcement pause, response distribution and running rate as a function of post-reinforcement pause duration, suggests that timing remains operational in both groups. The differences in response profiles between the two experimental groups, however, indicate that hippocampus and neocortex probably make independent contributions to performance in this situation. The decorticates and their control group were later transferred from the FI to a response-independent fixed time (FT) 40 s schedule. Both groups then returned to the former FI 40 s schedule. The decorticates adjusted their behaviour to the different schedules in the same way as the control animals. The results overall are consistent with previous findings that decortication does not abolish normal patterns of operant learning and extends them to include temporal schedules.