Effects of dopaminergic drugs on delayed reward as a measure of impulsive behavior in rats

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2000 May;150(1):90-101. doi: 10.1007/s002130000402.


Rationale: Impulsive individuals exhibit an exaggerated preference for immediate rewards over delayed but larger rewards, perhaps because they value the delayed rewards less. Dopamine (DA) has been postulated to mediate the incentive value of rewards, thus it may also mediate the exaggerated preference for immediate rewards in impulsive individuals. In this paper, we investigate the effects of DA agonists and antagonists on the value of delayed versus immediate rewards.

Objectives: The study had three main objectives: (1) to determine the effects of D1 and D2 type DA antagonists on the value of delayed rewards, (2) to determine the effect of the indirect DA agonist d-amphetamine on the value of delayed rewards, (3) to determine the sensitivity of the adjusting amount (AdjAmt) procedure to acute one-day changes in delay to reward, amount of reward, deprivation level and starting amount.

Methods: In the AdjAmt procedure, rats choose between an adjusting amount of water given immediately (adjusting alternative) and a constant 150 microliters water delayed by 4 s (standard alternative). The immediate amount of water is adjusted across trials until the rat chooses both alternatives with equal frequency (indifference point). The final adjusted amount is an indicator of the subjective value of the standard alternative.

Results: The D1/D2 antagonist flupenthixol (25, 50, and 100 micrograms/kg) and the D2 antagonist raclopride (40, 80, and 120 micrograms/kg), decreased the indifference points, whereas the D1 antagonist SCH 23390 (5, 10, and 20 micrograms/kg) did not affect the indifference point. All three DA antagonists slowed responding. The indirect DA agonist amphetamine (0.5, and 1.0 mg/kg) had effects opposite to those of the DA antagonists, it decreased choice latency, increased the number of trials completed and increased the indifference point. Decreasing the water deprivation level (6, 24, and 48 h) had no effect on the indifference points but slowed responding. Increasing the delay to reward (2, 4, and 8 s) and decreasing the amount of water available for choosing the standard alternative (300, 150, 75 microliters) decreased the indifference point.

Conclusions: The results indicate that amphetamine increased the value of delayed rewards (decreased impulsivity) and that D2 but not D1 receptor antagonists decreased the value of delayed rewards (increased impulsivity). The procedure was sensitive to acute 1-day changes in delay and magnitude of reward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / drug effects*
  • Choice Behavior / physiology
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology
  • Dopamine Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists*
  • Impulsive Behavior / drug therapy
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1 / physiology
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2 / physiology
  • Reward*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Dopamine D2 Receptor Antagonists
  • Receptors, Dopamine D1
  • Receptors, Dopamine D2
  • Amphetamine