Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


43rd Annual Convention; Denver, CO; 2017

Event Details

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B. F. Skinner Lecture Series Paper Session #314
CE Offered: PSY/BACB

Behavioral Economic Applications Reveal a Role for Dopamine in the Valuation of Negative Reinforcement

Sunday, May 28, 2017
5:00 PM–5:50 PM
Convention Center Four Seasons Ballroom 4
Area: SCI; Domain: Basic Research
Instruction Level: Intermediate
CE Instructor: William Stoops, Ph.D.
Chair: William Stoops (University of Kentucky)
ERIK OLESON (University of Colorado Denver)
After initially performing undergraduate research in the laboratory of Dr. Peter Kalivas, Dr. Erik Oleson sought out a graduate training environment where he would be instructed in the intricacies of animal behavior. Dr. Oleson's Ph.D. mentor, Dr. David C.S. Roberts, and their colleagues at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, instilled him with a great appreciation for the experimental analysis of behavior. One notable scientific contribution from his graduate work was the development of an operant within-session behavioral economics approach that allows experimenters to assess the value an animal places on cocaine. Dr. Oleson then sought out a post-doctoral training environment where he was trained to utilize several cutting edge neuroscientific techniques that can be applied to the behaving rat. Under the mentorship of Joseph F. Cheer at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Oleson learned how to conduct fast-scan cyclic voltammetry and optogenetics. Fast scan cyclic voltammetry allows for a real time assessment of changes in neurochemical concentration; optogenetics allows for a causal assessment resulting from transiently turning on/off select neural populations. During his time a post-doctoral researcher, Dr. Oleson provided the first real time assessment of changes in dopamine concentration during signaled operant foot-shock avoidance. At present, Dr. Oleson is starting his independent laboratory at the University of Colorado Denver where he is assessing the role of dopamine in the valuation of foot shock avoidance.

Making sound value-based decisions in a changing environment is an integral part of our daily economic-based decisions and our overall survival. Dopamine is a neuromodulator that is thought to represent reward value, but is almost exclusively studied within the context of positive reinforcement. Here, we are applying behavioral economic theory to address the role of dopamine in the valuation of not only positive, but also negative reinforcement. Either sucrose, or the opportunity to avoid electric foot shock, is provided to rats across ten ascending prices within a single experimental session. By assessing the rate at which individual demand curves decay, we compute a metric (alpha) that represents the worth a rat places on an outcome. Using voltammetry, we found that the concentration of dopamine observed at both sucrose- and avoidance-predictive cues decreased as a function of price, although an initial suppression was observed in the avoidance task. Using optogenetics, we found that modulating dopamine concentration similarly alters the valuation of sucrose and avoidance. Our results suggest that a transient dopamine signal represents the worth an animal places on any advantageous outcome.

Target Audience:

BCBAs at both the doctoral and master's level.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the presentation, participants will be able to: (1) discuss behavioral economic theory and within-session operant procedures can be used to assess reinforcer value; (2) discuss subsecond dopamine release events and how they are related to value during positive reinforcement; (3) discuss how subsecond dopamine release events are related to value during negative reinforcement.



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