Estradiol modulates effort-based decision making in female rats

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2012 Jan;37(2):390-401. doi: 10.1038/npp.2011.176. Epub 2011 Aug 31.


Disorders of the dopamine system, such as schizophrenia or stimulant addiction, are associated with impairments in different forms of cost/benefit decision making. The neural circuitry (ie amygdala, prefrontal cortex, nucleus accumbens) underlying these functions receives dopamine input, which is thought to have a central role in mediating cost/benefit decisions. Estradiol modulates dopamine activity, and estrogen receptors (ERs) are found within this neurocircuitry, suggesting that decision making may be influenced by estradiol. The present study examined the contribution of estradiol and selective ERα and β agonists on cost/benefit decision making in adult female Long-Evans rats. An effort-discounting task was utilized, where rats could either emit a single response on a low-reward lever to receive two pellets, or make 2, 5, 10, or 20 responses on a high-reward lever to obtain four pellets. Ovariectomy increased the choice on the high-reward lever, whereas replacement with high (10 μg), but not low (0.3 μg), levels of estradiol benzoate reduced the choice on the high-reward lever. Interestingly, both an ERα agonist (propyl-pyrazole triol (PPT)) and an ERβ agonist (diarylpropionitrile (DPN)) increased choice on the high-reward lever when administered independently, but when these two agonists were combined, a decrease in choice for the high-reward lever was observed. The effects of estradiol, PPT, and DPN were more pronounced 24 h post-administration, suggesting that these effects may be genomic in nature. Together, these results demonstrate that estradiol modulates cost/benefit decision making in females, whereby concomitant activation of ERα and β receptors shifts the decision criteria and reduces preference for larger, yet more costly rewards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant / drug effects
  • Conditioning, Operant / physiology
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Drug Interactions / physiology
  • Estradiol / analogs & derivatives*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Estradiol / physiology
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / agonists
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha / physiology
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / agonists
  • Estrogen Receptor beta / physiology
  • Female
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Ovariectomy / psychology*
  • Phenols
  • Physical Exertion / drug effects
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Propionates / pharmacology
  • Pyrazoles / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reinforcement Schedule


  • 2,3-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-propionitrile
  • Estrogen Receptor alpha
  • Estrogen Receptor beta
  • Nitriles
  • Phenols
  • Propionates
  • Pyrazoles
  • 4,4',4''-(4-propyl-((1)H)-pyrazole-1,3,5-triyl) tris-phenol
  • estradiol 3-benzoate
  • Estradiol