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Quantifying Social Motivation in Mice Using Operant Conditioning.

  • Martin, Loren
  • Iceberg, Erica
Published Article
Journal of Visualized Experiments
MyJoVE Corporation
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2015
DOI: 10.3791/53009
PMID: 26327305


In this protocol, social motivation is measured in mice through a pair of operant conditioning paradigms. To conduct the experiments, two-chambered shuttle boxes were equipped with two operant levers (left and right) and a food receptacle in one chamber, which was then divided from the second chamber by an automated guillotine door covered by a wire grid. Different stimulus mice, rotated across testing days, served as a social stimulus behind the wire grid, and were only visible following the opening of the guillotine door. Test mice were trained to lever press in order to open the door and gain access to the stimulus partner for 15 sec. The number of lever presses required to obtain the social reward progressively increased on a fixed schedule of 3. Testing sessions ended after test mice stopped lever pressing for 5 consecutive minutes. The last reinforced ratio or breakpoint can be used as a quantitative measure of social motivation. For the second paradigm, test mice were trained to discriminate between left and right lever presses in order to obtain either a food reward or the social reward. Mice were rewarded for every 3 presses of each respective lever. The number of food and social rewards can be compared as a measurement of the value placed upon each reward. The ratio of each reward type can also be compared between mouse strains and the change in this ratio can be monitored within testing sessions to measure satiation with a given reward type. Both of these operant conditioning paradigms are highly useful for the quantification of social motivation in mouse models of autism and other disorders of social behavior.

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