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Enhanced performance in perceptual decision making task without deprivation in mice using medial forebrain bundle stimulation

Published in Biorxiv - 03/30/2022

Antonin Verdier, Anna Aldanondo, Brice Bathellier, Sophie Bagur


Training animals on perceptual decision making tasks is essential to many fields of neuroscience. Current protocols generally use water as a reward in water-deprived animals. This can be challenging since it requires balancing animals’ deprivation level with their well-being. Moreover, trial number is limited once they reach satiation. Here, we present electrical stimulation of the medial forebrain bundle (MFB) as an alternative reward in mice that avoids deprivation entirely while yielding stable motivation for thousands of trials. We conducted a comparison of MFB rewarded and water-deprived animals on two auditory discrimination tasks of increasing difficulty. MFB rewarded mice learnt the hard task faster and with higher overall accuracy levels than their water-deprived counterparts. Moreover, they performed up to 4600 trials within a session without loss of motivation. Importantly, MFB stimulation does not impact the sensory behaviour under study since psychometric parameters and response times are preserved. Finally, in accordance with the lack of deprivation, MFB mice lack signs of metabolic or behavioural stress compared to water-deprived mice (open field, home cage behaviour). Overall, using MFB stimulation as a reward is a highly promising tool for task learning since it enhances task performance whilst avoiding deprivation.

Competing Interest Statement:
The authors have declared no competing interest.

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