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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 10;6(1):e15536. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015536.

Reward-related behavioral paradigms for addiction research in the mouse: performance of common inbred strains.

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Section on Behavioral Science and Genetics, Laboratory for Integrative Neuroscience, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, United States of America.


The mouse has emerged as a uniquely valuable species for studying the molecular and genetic basis of complex behaviors and modeling neuropsychiatric disease states. While valid and reliable preclinical assays for reward-related behaviors are critical to understanding addiction-related processes, and various behavioral procedures have been developed and characterized in rats and primates, there have been relatively few studies using operant-based addiction-relevant behavioral paradigms in the mouse. Here we describe the performance of the C57BL/6J inbred mouse strain on three major reward-related paradigms, and replicate the same procedures in two other commonly used inbred strains (DBA/2J, BALB/cJ). We examined Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT) by measuring the ability of an auditory cue associated with food reward to promote an instrumental (lever press) response. In a separate experiment, we assessed the acquisition and extinction of a simple stimulus-reward instrumental behavior on a touch screen based task. Reinstatement of this behavior was then examined following either continuous exposure to cues (conditioned reinforcers, CRs) associated with reward, brief reward and CR exposure, or brief reward exposure followed by continuous CR exposure. The third paradigm examined sensitivity of an instrumental (lever press) response to devaluation of food reward (a probe for outcome insensitive, habitual behavior) by repeated pairing with malaise. Results showed that C57BL/6J mice displayed robust PIT, as well as clear extinction and reinstatement, but were insensitive to reinforcer devaluation. DBA/2J mice showed good PIT and (rewarded) reinstatement, but were slow to extinguish and did not show reinforcer devaluation or significant CR-reinstatement. BALB/cJ mice also displayed good PIT, extinction and reinstatement, and retained instrumental responding following devaluation, but, unlike the other strains, demonstrated reduced Pavlovian approach behavior (food magazine head entries). Overall, these assays provide robust paradigms for future studies using the mouse to elucidate the neural, molecular and genetic factors underpinning reward-related behaviors relevant to addiction research.

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