Ratio and time requirements on operant schedules: effort-related effects of nucleus accumbens dopamine depletions


Dr J. D. Salamone, as above.
E-mail: Salamone@psych.psy.uconn.edu


Accumbens dopamine (DA) depletions produce deficits that are related to the ratio requirement of the operant schedule; however, it is also possible that time without reinforcement is a factor. The present study examined the effects of accumbens DA depletions in rats using variable interval (VI) schedules with additional fixed ratio (FR) requirements. Four VI schedules were used (VI 60/FR 1, VI 120/FR 1, VI 60/FR 10, VI 120/FR 10). Attachment of the additional work requirement increased response rates under control conditions. After surgery, there was no interaction between interval level (i.e. 60 vs. 120 s) and DA depletion, but there was a significant interaction between ratio requirement (i.e. 1 vs. 10) and DA depletion within the first week after surgery. DA depletions substantially impaired performance on the schedules with added FR 10 requirements, an effect that was largely dependent upon a reduction in fast responses (i.e. interresponse times less than 1.0 s). There was little effect of DA depletion on overall responding on VI 60/FR 1 and VI 120/FR 1 schedules. DA depletions also increased the tendency to take long pauses in responding (i.e. > 20.0 s), and this effect was evident across all schedules tested. Thus, accumbens DA depletions interact with work requirements and blunt the rate-enhancing effects of moderate size ratios, and also enhance the tendency to pause. Attachment of ratio requirements to interval schedules is a work-related response cost that provides a challenge to the organism, and DA in nucleus accumbens appears to be necessary for adapting to this challenge.