The Effect of Scopolamine on Matching Behavior and the Estimation of Relative Reward Magnitude

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We investigated the behavioral effects of scopolamine on rats that bar pressed for trains of electrically stimulating pulses under concurrent variable interval schedules of reward. For the first half of the session (30 min) a 1:4 ratio in the programmed number of stimulation trains delivered at each option was in effect. At the start of the second half of the session, an unsignaled reversal in the relative train number (4:1) occurred. We tracked the relative magnitude of reward estimated for each contiguous pair of reinforced visits to competing options. Scopolamine hydrobromide led to a reduction in the relative magnitude of reward. A similar result was obtained in a follow-up test in which relative magnitude was manipulated by varying the pulse frequency of stimulation, while equating the train number at each option. The effect of scopolamine hydrobromide could not be attributed to undermatching, side bias, nor to an effect of scopolamine on the reward integration process. When the same rats were treated with scopolamine methylbromide, no effects on matching behavior were observed. Our results suggest a cholinergic basis for the computation of choice variables related to matching behavior.

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