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Time-scale-invariant information-theoretic contingencies in discrimination learning

Kalmbach, Abigail; Balsam, Peter

Animals optimize their behavior to maximize rewards by utilizing cues from the environment. In discrimination learning, cues signal when rewards can and cannot be earned by making a particular response. In our experiment, we trained male mice to press a lever to receive a reward on a random interval schedule. We then introduced a prolonged tone (20, 40, or 80 sec), during which no rewards could be earned. We sought to test our hypothesis that the duration of the tone and frequency of reward during the inter-tone-intervals affect the informativeness of cues and led to differences in discriminative behavior. Learning was expressed as an increase in lever pressing during the ITI and, when the informativeness of the cue was high, animals also reduced their lever pressing during the tone. Additionally, we found that the depth of discriminative learning was linearly related to the informativeness of the cues. Our results show that the time-scale invariant information-theoretic definition of contingency applied to excitatory conditioning can also be applied to inhibitory conditioning.


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March 6, 2019