Impulsivity (delay discounting) for food and cocaine in male and female rats selectively bred for high and low saccharin intake

Jennifer L. Perry, Sarah E. Nelson, Marissa M. Anderson, Andrew D. Morgan, Marilyn E Carroll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


Previous research in rats indicates that delay discounting for food, a model of impulsivity, predicted the rate of acquisition of cocaine self-administration. In other studies, rats bred for high saccharin intake (HiS) acquired cocaine self-administration at higher rates than those with low saccharin intake (LoS), and female (F) rats acquired cocaine self-administration more rapidly than males (M). The purpose of this study was to examine a possible connection between impulsivity, saccharin intake, and sex by comparing M and F rats from the HiS and LoS selectively bred lines on measures of impulsivity; i.e., their rate of delay discounting for food or i.v. cocaine infusions. The adjusting delay procedure allowed rats access to 2 response levers, and a pellet dispenser or an i.v. drug infusion pump. In 4 groups (HiS M, HiS F, LoS M, LoS F) responses under a fixed-ratio (FR) 1 schedule on one lever resulted in one 45 mg pellet immediately, and responses on the other lever resulted in 3 or 6 pellets after a delay. Four additional groups received either a small cocaine (0.2, 0.4, or 0.8 mg/kg) infusion immediately or a delayed larger infusion (3× the amount of the small infusions). The delay to the larger reinforcer began at 6 s and increased or decreased by 1 s following responses on the delay or immediate levers, respectively. A mean adjusted delay (MAD) was calculated over 30 choice trials during each daily 3-hour session, and it was used as a quantitative measure of impulsivity. In groups maintained by food, HiS rats were more impulsive (lower MADs) than LoS rats, and LoS females were more impulsive than LoS males. There were no phenotype or sex differences in delay discounting for cocaine. Understanding the relationship between impulsivity and other predictors of drug abuse (e.g., sex, saccharin intake) is important in developing prevention and treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-837
Number of pages16
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007


  • Adjusting delay
  • Cocaine
  • Delay discounting
  • Food
  • Impulsivity
  • Saccharin Preference
  • Selective Breeding
  • Sex

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