Sequential delay and probability discounting tasks in mice reveal anchoring effects partially attributable to decision noise

Gerardo R. Rojas, Lisa Curry-Pochy, Cathy Chen, Abigail T. Heller, Nicola M. Grissom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Delay discounting and probability discounting decision making tasks in rodent models have high translational potential. However, it is unclear whether the discounted value of the large reward option is the main contributor to variability in animals’ choices in either task, which may limit translation to humans. Male and female mice underwent sessions of delay and probability discounting in sequence to assess how choice behavior adapts over experience with each task. To control for “anchoring” (persistent choices based on the initial delay or probability), mice experienced “Worsening” schedules where the large reward was offered under initially favorable conditions that became less favorable during testing, followed by “Improving” schedules where the large reward was offered under initially unfavorable conditions that improved over a session. During delay discounting, both male and female mice showed elimination of anchoring effects over training. In probability discounting, both sexes of mice continued to show some anchoring even after months of training. One possibility is that “noisy”, exploratory choices could contribute to these persistent anchoring effects, rather than constant fluctuations in value discounting. We fit choice behavior in individual animals using models that included both a value-based discounting parameter and a decision noise parameter that captured variability in choices deviating from value maximization. Changes in anchoring behavior over time were tracked by changes in both the value and decision noise parameters in delay discounting, but by the decision noise parameter in probability discounting. Exploratory decision making was also reflected in choice response times that tracked the degree of conflict caused by both uncertainty and temporal cost, but was not linked with differences in locomotor activity reflecting chamber exploration. Thus, variable discounting behavior in mice can result from changes in exploration of the decision options rather than changes in reward valuation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113951
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Aug 5 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Jake Jeong and Jack Leschisin for expert technical assistance with behavioral experiments. This work was funded by NIMH R01 MH123661 , NIMH P50 MH119569 , NIMH T32 training grant MH115886 , and startup funds from the University of Minnesota .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors


  • Delay discounting
  • Mice
  • Modeling
  • Probability discounting
  • Touchscreen

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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