Extent of food restriction affects probability but not delay-based decision-making

J Exp Anal Behav. 2020 Sep;114(2):179-192. doi: 10.1002/jeab.624. Epub 2020 Aug 10.


Rodent studies on decision-making often use food rewards and food-restrict subjects in order to motivate performance. However, food restriction has widespread effects on brain and behavior, which depend on factors including extent of restriction and feeding schedule. These factors are well recognized for their effects on motivation, but may also cause effects on decision-making independent of motivation. We examined how the degree of weight-based food restriction in rats influenced decision-making on the probability and delay discounting tasks. Additionally, we examined how the method of food restriction (consistent amount vs. time constrained feeding schedule) influenced decision-making. Our results showed that the degree of weight-based food restriction significantly altered probability, but not delay discounting, and that these effects were not entirely explainable by differences in motivation. Additionally, the method of food restriction did not significantly influence discounting when animals were within the same range of weight-based restriction. Together, our findings suggest that the degree of food restriction may modulate the neural circuitry responsible for selective aspects of decision-making related to probability. Further, these data support the need for tight control and reporting of weight and feeding in studies relying on food restriction, and suggest that the effects of food restriction may be broader than previously considered.

Keywords: body weight; delay discounting; food restriction; probability discounting; rat; time constrained feeding schedule.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Delay Discounting*
  • Food
  • Motivation
  • Probability
  • Rats
  • Reward*