Pavlovian Conditioned Approach Training in Rats

Associated faculty or student(s): Publication Date:
Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cues that are contingently paired with unconditioned, rewarding stimuli can acquire rewarding properties themselves through a process known as the attribution of incentive salience, or the transformation of neutral stimuli into attractive, "wanted' stimuli capable of motivating behavior. Pavlovian conditioned approach (PCA) develops after the response-independent presentation of a conditioned stimulus (CS; e.g., a lever) that predicts the delivery of an unconditioned stimulus (US; e.g., a food pellet) and can be used to measure incentive salience. During training, three patterns of conditioned responses (CRs) can develop: sign-tracking behavior (CS-directed CR), goal-tracking behavior (US-directed CR), and an intermediate response (both CRs). Sign-trackers attribute incentive salience to reward-related cues and are more vulnerable to cue-induced reinstatement of drug-seeking as well as other addiction-related behaviors, making PCA a potentially valuable procedure for studying addiction vulnerability. Here, we describe materials and methods used to elicit PCA behavior from rats as well as analyze and interpret PCA behavior in individual experiments.

Link to publication: