Elucidating cognitive biases and ACC function in rat foraging behavior


October 30, 2019 - 12:00pm - 1:15pm
Northwest 243
About the Speaker
Gary Kane
Speaker Title: 
Postdoctoral Fellow
Speaker Affiliation: 
Rowland Institute, Harvard University

In foraging tasks, animals consistently exhibit a bias towards "harvesting" smaller, currently available rewards over "searching" for larger rewards, yet the cause of this bias is not well understood. This bias is qualitatively similar to time preferences that are widely observed in other intertemporal choice tasks (i.e. a preference for smaller, more immediate rewards over larger, delayed ones) . Via behavioral testing and quantitative modeling, we confirm that rats exhibit similar time preferences in foraging tasks as they do in an intertemporal choice task, and that time preferences in both tasks are best explained by the same temporal discounting model. In addition, we look into the neural mechanisms of foraging. Electrophysiological recordings in monkeys and functional imaging in human participants have implicated involvement of the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) in regulating foraging behavior. We show that rat ACC neurons exhibit similar activity in a foraging task as ACC in monkeys and humans. Interestingly, selective pharmacological inhibition of rat ACC revealed that the ACC is not necessary to follow the basic predictions of optimal foraging theory, suggesting that ACC may not be critical for encoding important decision variables in foraging tasks.