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versión On-line ISSN 1668-7027


PELLEGRINI, Santiago; CUENYA, Lucas; MUSTACA, Alba Elisabeth  y  KAMENETZKY, Giselle Vanesa. Comparative Psychophysic: Loss of incentive effects in normal rats injected with ethanol. Interdisciplinaria [online]. 2009, vol.26, n.2, pp.229-246. ISSN 1668-7027.

A psychophysical problem that might be of particular interest in current research on conditioning phenomena, and that exceeds the area of sensation and perception, concerns the reinforcing properties of stimuli and their relationships to the physical measures of the stimuli. Stimuli acting as reinforcers are operationally defined as those which have the property of changing the probability of response output of an organism if they are presented in an ordered fashion in relation to other stimuli or responses. From a biopsychological point of view the scale in which this property is measured is referred to as the stimulus incentive value. Papini and Pellegrini (2006) observed that the level of consummatory responses in rats exposed to surprising reductions in sucrose concentrations is similar if the shift ratio of the solutions (preshift / postshift concentration) is the same. For example, a 32 to 4% downshift and a 16 to 2% downshift produced similar levels of consummatory responding. Pellegrini and Papini (2007) and Pellegrini, Lopez Seal, and Papini (2008) extended this observations to measures of anticipatory behaviours of rats in studies implementing runway, autoshaping, solid food and within subjects design. These results are in agreement with the Weber´s Law. The incentive downshift situations as observed in spaced-trials conditions are interesting in psychological terms because they might imply the development of emotional processes (Amsel, 1992; Flaherty, 1996; Papini, 2002, 2003). Therefore, the aforementioned proportionality in incentive downshift situations might also imply proportional emotional responses. The evidence favoring an emotional interpretation of behavioral regulation during incentive downshifts arise mostly from studies which used drugs with anxiolitic-like effects (for example, clordiazepoxide and ethanol). For example, in similar experimental conditions it has been shown that the administration of ethanol before the second postshift trial reduces the level of response depression due to incentive downshifts (Becker & Flaherty, 1982). Here we present one experiment with eight groups of rats designed to replicate both of these findings and to study their potential interactions. Groups differed in the concentration of preshift sucrose solutions (either 32 or 16%) and postshift solution (16, 8, 4 or 2%), which implied two different downshift ratios (.125 and .25); and in the drug condition [vehicle (S), or an ip. injection of .75g/kg ethanol (E) administered 10 min. before the second postshift trial]. In short, the eight groups were labeled as follows: 32-8S, 32-8E, 32-4S, 32-4E, 16-4S, 16-4E, 16-2S, and 16-2E. Results are in agreement with previous data, indicating, first, a strong significant effect of downshift ratio F(1, 34) = 19,15, p < .0001; and second, a small but significant effect of ethanol administration on the recovery from incentive downshift F(1, 34) = 5,09, p < .031. However, these results are not conclusive regarding the possibility that ethanol administration can modify the proportionality observed in consummatory responding in incentive downshift situations. Also important is the observation that the 32-4 and 16-4 conditions differed respecting its postshift consummatory performance (32-4 < 16-4); the difference was significant [F(1, 18) = 6,71; p < .018] and is interpreted as a special case of the successive negative incentive contrast effect. In his classic writings on Adaptation Level Theory, Helson (1964, pp. 448-449), argued that "The evidence shows that reinforcing agents behave like psychophysical stimuli being scalable on continua having neutral or indifferent regions and in being subject to both series and anchor effects". Present results are in agreement with this statement and their implications for studies on Comparative Psychophysics are discussed. It is suggested that further research with alternative anxiolitic drugs and experimental designs might be of interest.

Palabras clave : Incentive contrast; Weber's Law; Ethanol; Conditioning; Rat.

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