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Undergraduate Research Project Management System

Effects of Flavor Variety on Food-Motivated Behavior in Dwarf Hamsters (Phodopus Campbelli)

Status Complete
Seeking Researchers No
Start Date 09/01/2008
End Date 12/31/2011
Funding Source Undergraduate Research Grants
Funding Amount
Community Partner
Related Course
Last Updated 06/26/2009 09:48PM
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Faculty
  Eric Murphy, Gwen Lupfer

Student Researchers
  Jennifer LaCasse, Linda Blackwell, Sarah Roberson

Abstract

As obesity becomes more and more problematic in our society, understanding food-related motivation becomes increasingly important. Food motivation is frequently studied using operant conditioning, a process in which food rewards are made contingent on specific behaviors. The rate at which an individual performs those behaviors can be used as a measure of his or her motivation. When working for food reinforcers, both human and non-human subjects typically increase and then decrease their rates of responding within an operant session. Two competing explanations exist for these within-session changes in response rates: (1) Satiation, and (2) Habituation to the sensory properties of the reinforcers. The proposed project will utilize dwarf hamsters (Phodopus campbelli) to discriminate between these two theories because the hamsters do not immediately consume food reinforces but rather store them in their cheek pouches. In addition, the sensory properties of the food reinforcers will be manipulated so that the hamsters sometimes earn a single flavored food pellet and sometimes earn one of two different flavored food pellets. We predict that the hamsters' rates of responding will decrease more slowly with two flavors of reinforcers than with one, indicating that habituation to the sensory properties of the reinforcer, not post-ingestive factors such as satiation, are responsible for within-session decreases in responding. This result would confirm previous findings that dietary variety plays a role in overeating and would suppor the use of dwarf hamsters as a model for human obesity.

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