Pharmacological studies of effort-related decision making using mouse touchscreen procedures: effects of dopamine antagonism do not resemble reinforcer devaluation by removal of food restriction



Effort-based decision-making tasks offer animals choices between preferred reinforcers that require high effort to obtain vs. low effort/low reward options. The neural mechanisms of effort-based choice are widely studied in rats, and evidence indicates that mesolimbic dopamine (DA) and related neural systems play a key role. Fewer studies of effort-based choice have been performed in mice.


The present studies used touchscreen operant procedures (Bussey-Saksida boxes) to assess effort-based choice in mice.


CD1 mice were assessed on a concurrent fixed ratio 1 panel pressing/choice procedure. Mice were allowed to choose between rearing to press an elevated panel on the touchscreen for a preferred food (strawberry milkshake) vs. consuming a concurrently available less preferred alternative (high carbohydrate pellets).


The DA D2 antagonist haloperidol (0.05–0.15 mg/kg IP) produced a dose-related decrease in panel pressing. Intake of food pellets was not reduced by haloperidol, and in fact, there was a significant quadratic trend, indicating a tendency for pellet intake to increase at low/moderate doses. In contrast, reinforcer devaluation by removing food restriction substantially decreased both panel pressing and pellet intake. In free-feeding choice tests, mice strongly preferred milkshake vs. pellets. Haloperidol did not affect food intake or preference.


Haloperidol reduced the tendency to work for food, but this reduction was not due to decreases in primary food motivation or preference. Mouse touchscreen procedures demonstrate effects of haloperidol that are similar but not identical to those shown in rats. These rodent studies may be relevant for understanding motivational dysfunctions in humans.

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We wish to thank Suzanne Cayer for her help with this project.


This research was supported by a grant to RHF and JS from The University of Connecticut Tier II program, the University of Connecticut Research Foundation (JS), and to MC from MINECO (PSI2015–68497-R) Spain. JS has received grants from, and done consulting work for, Pfizer, Roche, Shire, Prexa, Chronos, Lundbeck and Acadia.

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Yang, J., Presby, R.E., Jarvie, A.A. et al. Pharmacological studies of effort-related decision making using mouse touchscreen procedures: effects of dopamine antagonism do not resemble reinforcer devaluation by removal of food restriction. Psychopharmacology 237, 33–43 (2020).

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  • Motivation
  • Dopamine
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bussey-Saksida chambers
  • Panel pressing
  • Preference test