Elucidating Poor Decision-Making in a Rat Gambling Task

Marion Rivalan, Vincent Valton, Peggy Series, Alain R. Marchand, Francoise Dellu-hagedorn, Nadine Ravel (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although poor decision-making is a hallmark of psychiatric conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, pathological gambling or substance abuse, a fraction of healthy individuals exhibit similar poor decision-making performances in everyday life and specific laboratory tasks such as the Iowa Gambling Task. These particular individuals may provide information on risk factors or common endophenotypes of these mental disorders. In a rodent version of the Iowa gambling task – the Rat Gambling Task (RGT), we identified a population of poor decision makers, and assessed how these rats scored for several behavioral traits relevant to executive disorders: risk taking, reward seeking, behavioral inflexibility, and several aspects of impulsivity. First, we found that poor decision-making could not be well predicted by single behavioral and cognitive characteristics when considered separately. By contrast, a combination of independent traits in the same individual, namely risk taking, reward seeking, behavioral inflexibility, as well as motor impulsivity, was highly predictive of poor decision-making. Second, using a reinforcement-learning model of the RGT, we confirmed that only the combination of extreme scores on these traits could induce maladaptive decision-making. Third, the model suggested that a combination of these behavioral traits results in an inaccurate representation of rewards and penalties and inefficient learning of the environment. Poor decision-making appears as a consequence of the over-valuation of high-reward-high-risk options in the task. Such a specific psychological profile could greatly impair clinically healthy individuals in decision-making tasks and may predispose to mental disorders with similar symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e82052
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2013


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