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Conditioned taste aversion (CTA) is traditionally viewed as an instance of Pavlovian conditioning. This interpretation rests on the lack of an instrumental contingency between the tastant and the gastric malaise in a standard procedure of CTA. To investigate a role for instrumental punishment in CTA, we present 2 tastants sequentially ("sucrose then NaCl" or "NaCl then sucrose") in a daily alternating and counterbalanced order to rats with an explicit positive contingency between the dosage of the lithium chloride (LiCl) administered and the amount of 1 tastant drunk on that trial. In the beginning of experiment, rats suppressed their intake of both tastants. With the increase of conditioning trials, rats gradually learned to resume the intake of noncontingent solution while selectively suppressing the intake of LiCl-contingent solution. This selective suppression in CTA is the first report indicating that rats are sensitive to the subtle cues related to the covariations between the magnitude of stimulus and the magnitude of responses in a punishment paradigm involving a long delay between the gustatory stimulus of tastant ingestion and the aversive effect of LiCl injection.


Kuang-Chu Li, Sigmund Hsiao, Jay-Shake Li. Conditioned taste aversion as instrumental punishment. Journal of experimental psychology. Animal behavior processes. 2013 Jul;39(3):294-7

PMID: 23627795

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