Towards mouse models of perseveration: a heritable component in extinction of operant behavior in fourteen standard and recombinant inbred mouse lines.
ABSTRACT Extinction of instrumental responses is an essential skill for adaptive behavior such as foraging. So far, only few studies have focused on extinction following appetitive conditioning in mice. We studied extinction of appetitive operant lever-press behavior in six standard inbred mouse strains (A/J, C3H/HeJ, C57BL/6J, DBA/2J, BALB/cByJ and NOD/Ltj) and eight recombinant inbred mouse lines. From the response rates at the end of operant and extinction training we computed an extinction index, with higher values indicating better capability to omit behavioral responding in absence of reward. This index varied highly across the mouse lines tested, and the variability was partially due to a significant heritable component of 12.6%. To further characterize the relationship between operant learning and extinction, we calculated the slope of the time course of extinction across sessions. While many strains showed a considerable capacity to omit responding when lever pressing was no longer rewarded, we found a few lines showing an abnormally high perseveration in lever press behavior, showing no decay in response scores over extinction sessions. No correlation was found between operant and extinction response scores, suggesting that appetitive operant learning and extinction learning are dissociable, a finding in line with previous studies indicating that these forms of learning are dependent on different brain areas. These data shed light on the heritable basis of extinction learning and may help develop animal models of addictive habits and other perseverative disorders, such as compulsive food seeking and eating.