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A Novel Task for Modeling Negative Reinforcement with Temporal Precision

Gamboa, John Paul (2022) A Novel Task for Modeling Negative Reinforcement with Temporal Precision. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a burdensome psychiatric illness that affects 1%-3% of the world’s population (Kessler, Chiu, Demler, Merikangas, & Walters, 2005). The disorder is characterized by recurrent thoughts, images, and impulses that are disturbing (i.e., obsessions) and repetitive behaviors or mental acts (i.e., compulsions). Currently, the pathophysiology of OCD is not well-understood. One theory in the field is that compulsions are ingrained by negative reinforcement. Specifically, compulsive behaviors are thought to be negatively reinforced because they temporarily relieve anxiety. If negative reinforcement is indeed a key component of OCD’s pathophysiology, neural circuits mediating this reinforcement step are a valuable target of investigation for developing novel treatments of OCD. Neural mechanisms of negative reinforcement have typically been studied in the laboratory using active and passive avoidance learning paradigms. Although current active avoidance paradigms have allowed us to identify some neural circuits critical for avoidance acquisition, expression, and extinction, they have a serious limitation. Specifically, it is challenging to determine exactly when the avoidance behavior initiates, and this in turn makes it difficult to time-lock neural signals to the time of avoidance. Here, we present a solution to this issue by developing a novel task in which mice avoid by pressing a lever. This kind of task provides a discrete time point for the behavioral response, defining clear periods before, during, and after the conditioned response to time-lock acquisition of neural signals or deliver interventions. We also describe how several variations of this task affect acquisition and behavioral performance, show that animals continue to engage in the task at a wide range of reinforcement probabilities (including 0%), and demonstrate that the conditioned response is extinguishable through an animal analog of exposure with response prevention (ERP) therapy.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Gamboa, John Pauljog122@pitt.edujog122
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRunyan,
Committee MemberAhmari,
Committee MemberDong,
Date: 6 June 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 5 January 2022
Approval Date: 6 June 2022
Submission Date: 4 March 2022
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 40
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Neuroscience
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Negative Reinforcement, Active Avoidance
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 15:53
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 15:53

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  • A Novel Task for Modeling Negative Reinforcement with Temporal Precision. (deposited 06 Jun 2022 15:53) [Currently Displayed]


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