Hippocampus, delay discounting, and vicarious trial and error

David Bett, Lauren H Murdoch, Emma Wood, Paul A Dudchenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In decision-making, an immediate reward is usually preferred to a delayed reward, even if the latter is larger. We tested whether the hippocampus is necessary for this form of temporal discounting, and for vicarious trial-and-error at the decision point. Rats were trained on a recently developed, adjustable delay-discounting task (Papale et al. (2012) Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci 12:513–526), which featured a choice between a small, nearly immediate reward, and a larger, delayed reward. Rats then received either hippocampus or sham lesions. Animals with hippocampus lesions adjusted the delay for the larger reward to a level similar to that of sham-lesioned animals, suggesting a similar valuation capacity. However, the hippocampus lesion group spent significantly longer investigating the small and large rewards in the first part of the sessions, and were less sensitive to changes in the amount of reward in the large reward maze arm. Both sham- and hippocampus-lesioned rats showed a greater amount of vicarious trial-and-error on trials in which the delay was adjusted. In a nonadjusting version of the delay discounting task, animals with hippocampus lesions showed more variability in their preference for a larger reward that was delayed by 10 s compared with sham-lesioned animals. To verify the lesion behaviorally, rat were subsequently trained on a water maze task, and rats with hippocampus lesions were significantly impaired compared with sham-lesioned animals. The findings on the delay discounting tasks suggest that damage to the hippocampus may impair the detection of reward magnitude.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)643-654
Number of pages12
Issue number5
Early online date26 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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