Pairings of lever and food induce Pavlovian conditioned approach of sign-tracking and goal-tracking in C57BL/6 mice

Arthur Tomie, Michelle Lincks, Steffi D. Nadarajah, Larissa A. Pohorecky, Lei Yu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


In rats, Pavlovian sign-tracking has been extensively evaluated as a model of compulsiveness in drug addiction and other addictive behaviors, but it remains unexplored in mice, a species with a wealth of genetically modified models, which makes it possible to examine gene-behavior relationships. In C57BL/6 mice, the most commonly used mouse strain for genetic studies, repeated pairings of lever conditioned stimulus (CS) with food unconditioned stimulus (US) induced Pavlovian conditioning of sign-tracking conditioned response (ST CR) performance of lever CS-directed approach, and Pavlovian conditioning of goal-tracking conditioned response (GT CR) performance of approach responses directed at the location of the food trough where the food US was delivered. The CS-US Paired group performed more ST CRs and more GT CRs during sessions 15-16 than did pseudoconditioning controls which received the lever CS and food US randomly with respect to one another. During sessions 15-16, all mice in the Paired group performed more GT CRs than ST CRs, and regression analysis revealed a positive relationship between an individual subject's tendency to perform ST CRs and GT CRs. The mice that performed more ST CRs during sessions 15-16 yielded higher plasma corticosterone levels. These data reveal stable and reliable acquisition and maintenance of ST CR performance and GT CR performance in mice; however, unlike in rats, ST CRs and GT CRs did not vary inversely within subjects. Corticosterone release, a pathophysiological marker of vulnerability to drug abuse, was positively related to ST CR performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-578
Number of pages8
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


  • Corticosterone
  • Goal-tracking
  • Incentive salience
  • Pavlovian conditioned approach
  • Pseudoconditioning
  • Sign-tracking

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