A Novel Strategy for Dissecting Goal-Directed Action and Arousal Components of Motivated Behavior With a Progressive Hold-Down Task


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Abstract

Motivation serves 2 important functions: It guides actions to be goal-directed, and it provides the energy and vigor required to perform the work necessary to meet those goals. Dissociating these 2 processes with existing behavioral assays has been a challenge. In this article, we report a novel experimental strategy to distinguish the 2 processes in mice. First, we characterize a novel motivation assay in which animals must hold down a lever for progressively longer intervals to earn each subsequent reward; we call this the progressive hold-down (PHD) task. We find that performance on the PHD task is sensitive to both food deprivation level and reward value. Next, we use a dose of methamphetamine (METH) 1.0 mg/kg, to evaluate behavior in both the progressive ratio (PR) and PHD tasks. Treatment with METH leads to more persistent lever pressing for food rewards in the PR. In the PHD task, we found that METH increased arousal, which leads to numerous bouts of hyperactive responding but neither increases nor impairs goal-directed action. The results demonstrate that these tools enable a more precise understanding of the underlying processes being altered in manipulations that alter motivated behavior.

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