Biological Determinants of Reinforcement - Vol. 7

By Michael L. Commons; Russell M. Church et al. | Go to book overview

1
Determining the Quantitative Characteristics of a Reward Pathway

C. R. Gallistel University of Pennsylvania

In the self-stimulating rat, one can determine quantitative physiological and anatomical properties of the underlying neural system by behavioral methods. The behavioral determination of these properties increases the likelihood of correctly identifying the behavior-relevant neurons in anatomical and electrophysiological experiments. Because these neurons probably play a pivotal role in the organization of learned goal-directed behavior, their identification may lead to a better understanding of the neurophysiological foundations of higher behavioral function in vertebrates. This paper discusses the conceptual foundations of the behavioral methods for measuring the neurophysiological and anatomical properties of the underlying system.


MEASURING REWARDING EFFICACY

Deutsch ( 1964) showed that a characteristic of the neural system mediating self- stimulation--the duration of the refractory period of the directly stimulated neurons--could be determined from behavioral data. He determined an animal's rate of pressing as a function of the within-pair (C-T) interval in a train of paired pulses. This function showed evidence of both latent addition of subthreshold excitation and recovery from refractoriness (see below). The interpretation of Deutsch's experiment rests on a concept of rewarding efficacy, which is inversely proportional to the amount of stimulation required to produce some level of rewarding effect; the more stimulation required, the less its efficacy. Gallistel ( 1975) pointed out that the best way to measure the change in rewarding efficacy

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