Motivational state and reward content determine choice behavior under risk in mice.
Risk is a ubiquitous feature of the environment for most organisms, who must often choose between a small and certain reward and a larger but less certain reward. To study choice behavior under risk in a genetically well characterized species, we trained mice (C57BL/6) on a discrete trial, concurrent-choice task in which they must choose between two levers. Pressing one lever (safe choice) is always followed by a small reward. Pressing the other lever (risky choice) is followed by a larger reward, but only on some of the trials. The overall payoff is the same on both levers. When mice were not food deprived, they were indifferent to risk, choosing both levers with equal probability regardless of the level of risk. In contrast, following food or water deprivation, mice earning 10% sucrose solution were risk-averse, though the addition of alcohol to the sucrose solution dose-dependently reduced risk aversion, even before the mice became intoxicated. Our results falsify the budget rule in optimal foraging theory often used to explain behavior under risk. Instead, they suggest that the overall demand or desired amount for a particular reward determines risk preference. Changes in motivational state or reward identity affect risk preference by changing demand. Any manipulation that increases the demand for a reward also increases risk aversion, by selectively increasing the frequency of safe choices without affecting frequency of risky choices.
Leblond, M; Fan, D; Brynildsen, JK; Yin, HH
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