Delineating the decision-making mechanisms underlying choice between drug and nondrug rewards remains a challenge. This study adopts an original approach to probe these mechanisms by comparing response latencies during sampling versus choice trials. While lengthening of latencies during choice is predicted in a deliberative choice model (DCM), the race-like response competition mechanism postulated by the Sequential choice model (SCM) predicts a shortening of latencies during choice compared to sampling. Here, we tested these predictions by conducting a retrospective analysis of cocaine-versus-saccharin choice experiments conducted in our laboratory. We found that rats engage deliberative decision-making mechanisms after limited training, but adopt a SCM-like response selection mechanism after more extended training, while their behavior is presumably habitual. Thus, the DCM and SCM may not be general models of choice, as initially formulated, but could be dynamically engaged to control choice behavior across early and extended training.
Keywords: cocaine; decision-making; deliberative choice model; ecology; neuroscience; rat; saccharin; sequential choice model.
© 2021, Vandaele et al.