Abnormal motivation and hedonic assessment of aversive stimuli are symptoms of anxiety and depression. Symptoms influenced by motivation and anhedonia predict treatment success or resistance. Therefore, a translational approach to the study of negatively motivated behaviors is needed. We describe a novel use of behavioral economics demand curve analysis to investigate negative reinforcement in animals that separates hedonic assessment of footshock termination (i.e., relief) from motivation to escape footshock. In outbred Sprague Dawley (SD) rats, relief increased as shock intensity increased. Likewise, motivation to escape footshock increased as shock intensity increased. To demonstrate the applicability to anxiety disorders, hedonic and motivational components of negative reinforcement were investigated in anxiety vulnerable Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats. WKY rats demonstrated increased motivation for shock cessation with no difference in relief as compared to control SD rats, consistent with a negative bias for motivation in anxiety vulnerability. Moreover, motivation was positively correlated with relief in SD, but not in WKY. This study is the first to assess the hedonic and motivational components of negative reinforcement using behavioral economic analysis. This procedure can be used to investigate positive and negative reinforcement in humans and animals to gain a better understanding of the importance of motivated behavior in stress-related disorders.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Anxiety disorders
- Behavioral economics
- Exponential demand equation