Response Rates Are Governed More by Time Cues Than Contingency

in Timing & Time Perception
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Classical conditioning is normally thought to strengthen associations between stimuli, and instrumental conditioning is thought to select responses. This difference has been used to account for the usual result that instrumental conditioning produces higher response rates than classical conditioning. The present experiment suggests that the comparison of instrumental and classical tasks has overlooked temporal cues that are often confounded with response contingency, and that the time cues exert a critical influence on response rate. When the two tasks are equated for temporal cues, the response rate of rats is similar in classical and instrumental tasks.

Response Rates Are Governed More by Time Cues Than Contingency

in Timing & Time Perception

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    The 2 × 2 experimental design used in this experiment. Panels a, b, c, and d show the Instrumental, Instrumental Click, Classical, and Classical Click tasks respectively. The filled triangles represent food deliveries. Open triangles represent the time at which food is available on instrumental tasks. The filled circles represent an auditory click. The R enclosed in a box represents a response by the rat.

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    Response rate as a function of time since the last food (s). The two panels on the left (a, b) show raster plots of individual cycles from one Classical rat (panel a), and one Instrumental rat (panel b). Panel c on the right shows mean response rate as a function of time for the Instrumental, Instrumental click, Classical, and Classical Click rats (open black circles, filled black circles, open gray circles, and filled gray circles, respectively). One intuitive way to think about this response gradient is that it is similar to a (scaled) probability of a response in each one-second time bin since the previous food delivery.

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    Measures of timing. Panel a shows the transition time probability distributions (distributions of tc, see equation (2)) for the Instrumental, Instrumental Click, Classical, and Classical Click groups (open black circles, filled black circles, open gray circles, and filled gray circles, respectively). The right two panels show the two fitted timing parameters μ and γ for each of the groups (see equation (1)). Error bars indicate the 95% confidence interval. There are no significant differences in any of the timing measures.

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    Measures of rate. Panel a shows the probability distributions of the response rate following the point of transition (the average response rate after tc, see equation (2)) for the Instrumental, Instrumental Click, Classical, and Classical Click rats (open black circles, filled black circles, open gray circles, and filled gray circles, respectively). The right two panels show the two fitted rate parameters r and A for each of the groups (see equation (1)). The small black dot in panels b and c show the outlier. Error bars indicate the 95% confidence interval. The Instrumental rats are significantly different from the other three groups in all measures, but the other three groups do not differ from each other.

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    Response rate as a function of time since the last food during partial reinforcement training. Panel a (left) shows the response gradients for the Instrumental and Classical groups (open black circles and open gray circles, respectively). Panel b (right) shows the response gradients for the Instrumental Click and Classical Click groups (filled black circles and filled gray circles, respectively). The Click rats (both Instrumental and Classical) use the click as a time cue on peak trials.

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    Response rate as a function of time since the last food cue, during extinction. Panel a (left) shows the response gradients for the Instrumental and Classical groups (open black circles and open gray circles, respectively). Panel b (right) shows that the response gradients for the Instrumental Click and Classical Click groups (filled black circles and filled gray circles, respectively). The initial increase in responding (panel a) shows the rats that did not receive a click still use the feeder cues as time cues. The Instrumental Click rats (panel b) hint at an effect of contingency.

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    Response rate as a function of time using the unreported data from MacInnis et al. (2010). Panel a (left) shows the response gradients from Phase 1 for Instrumental (open circles), and Instrumental Click (filled circles) groups. Panel b (right) shows the response rate gradients from Phase 2, when the tasks were swapped in a within-subjects design. For both panels, the open circles are the rats that transitioned from the Instrumental task to Instrumental Click task. Filled circles show the rats that transitioned from the Instrumental Click task to the Instrumental task. These data show that the effect of the click can be reversed.

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