Conditional stimuli (CS) that are paired with reward can be used to motivate instrumental responses. This process is called Pavlovian-instrumental transfer (PIT). A recent study in rats suggested that habitual responses are particularly sensitive to the motivational effects of reward cues. The current experiments examined this idea using ratio and interval training in mice. Two groups of animals were trained to lever press for food pellets that were delivered on random ratio or random interval schedules. Devaluation tests revealed that interval training led to habitual responding while ratio training produced goal-directed actions. The presentation of CSs paired with reward led to positive transfer in both groups, however, the size of this effect was much larger in mice that were trained on interval schedules. This result suggests that habitual responses are more sensitive to the motivational influence of reward cues than goal-directed actions. The implications for neurobiological models of motivation and drug seeking behaviors are discussed.
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