Limbic corticostriatal systems and delayed reinforcement.


Impulsive choice, one aspect of impulsivity, is characterized by an abnormally high preference for small, immediate rewards over larger delayed rewards, and can be a feature of adolescence, but also attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), addiction, and other neuropsychiatric disorders. Both the serotonin and dopamine neuromodulator systems are implicated in impulsivity; manipulations of these systems affect animal models of impulsive choice, though these effects may depend on the receptor subtype and whether or not the reward is signaled. These systems project to limbic cortical and striatal structures shown to be abnormal in animal models of ADHD. Damage to the nucleus accumbens core (AcbC) causes rats to exhibit impulsive choice. These rats are also hyperactive, but are unimpaired in tests of visuospatial attention; they may therefore represent an animal model of the hyperactive-impulsive subtype of ADHD. Lesions to the anterior cingulate or medial prefrontal cortex, two afferents to the AcbC, do not induce impulsive choice, but lesions of the basolateral amygdala do, while lesions to the orbitofrontal cortex have had opposite effects in different tasks measuring impulsive choice. In theory, impulsive choice may emerge as a result of abnormal processing of the magnitude of rewards, or as a result of a deficit in the effects of delayed reinforcement. Recent evidence suggests that AcbC-lesioned rats perceive reward magnitude normally, but exhibit a selective deficit in learning instrumental responses using delayed reinforcement, suggesting that the AcbC is a reinforcement learning system that mediates the effects of delayed rewards.