The pharmacology of impulsive behaviour in rats III: the effects of amphetamine, haloperidol, imipramine, chlordiazepoxide and ethanol on a paced fixed consecutive number schedule

Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1998 Aug;138(3-4):295-304. doi: 10.1007/s002130050674.


The behavioural trait of impulsivity may be made up of different components, including rapid decision making, intolerance to the delay of reward and a tendency to terminate chains of responses prematurely. It has been proposed to measure the last of these in rats using fixed consecutive number (FCN) schedules. The present study uses a modified version of the FCN procedure in which responding was paced by retracting the response lever for short periods between presses. In this way, the experimenter could control the maximum rate of responding. The procedure was made up of two components based on an FCN 8 schedule of food reinforcement. In the Fast component, lever presses were spaced by a minimum of 2 s and in the Slow component by a minimum of 5 s. The average chain length was significantly shorter, and the rats were less efficient in the Slow component. Five drugs were tested on this baseline, imipramine (1.0-10.0 mg/kg), ethanol (300-3000 mg/kg administered PO), haloperidol (0.01-0.1 mg/kg), chlordiazepoxide ( 1.0-10.0 mg/kg) and d-amphetamine (0.2-0.8 mg/kg). All the drugs reduced responding at the highest dose, but imipramine was different from the others in that it increased the average number of responses in the chain and produced a shift in the chain length distribution to the right, possibly reflecting a reduction in impulsivity. The other four drugs reduced chain length at the highest dose, although in the case of ethanol this effect was very small and, unlike the other three drugs, did not result in a shift in the distribution to the left. The paced FCN procedure can differentiate the effects of different drugs on one aspect of impulsivity, and is likely to be a useful procedure for further study of this aspect of behaviour.

MeSH terms

  • Amphetamine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Chlordiazepoxide / pharmacology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Haloperidol / pharmacology
  • Imipramine / pharmacology
  • Impulsive Behavior*
  • Learning / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Psychotropic Drugs / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Task Performance and Analysis


  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • Ethanol
  • Chlordiazepoxide
  • Amphetamine
  • Haloperidol
  • Imipramine