Development of a behavioral task measuring reward “wanting” and “liking” in rats

David I.G. Wilson, Anita Laidlaw, Emma Butler, Darija Hofmann, E.M. Bowman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


It has been suggested that reward “wanting” and “liking” are mediated by separable brain systems. To facilitate neuropharmacological and neurophysiological research on this issue we developed a behavioral task with putative measures of reward “wanting” and “liking” available on a trial-by-trial basis. We were able to test whether our measures were sensitive to changes in thirsty rats' “wanting” and “liking” of liquid reward by manipulating its delay, taste and volume. We found that three of our putative “wanting” measures (anticipatory errors, reaction time and reward collection latency) were affected by upcoming reward delay and/or taste and our putative “liking” measure (post-reward licking) was sensitive to variations in reward taste and volume. To cross-validate our measures with previous pharmacological work we tested rats following acute, systemic administration of drug compounds that globally enhance serotonin and noradrenaline (imipramine), dopamine (GBR 12909) and opioid (morphine) function. Imipramine augmented the effects of delay and taste on reward “wanting”, GBR 12909 attenuated the effects of delay on reward “wanting” and the effects of taste on reward “liking”, and morphine reduced the effect of delay on a measure of reward “wanting”. Since morphine failed to affect reward “liking” but has been previously found to enhance reward “liking” in taste reactivity tests, our measure requires further pharmacological validation. However, this task shows potential to assess the specific neural mechanisms that contribute to the impact of reward parameters on “wanting” and “liking”.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-161
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2006


  • Incentive
  • Reinforcer
  • Motivation
  • Impulsivity
  • Flavor
  • Magnitude
  • Saccharin
  • Thirst
  • Reward-seeking
  • Reward-taking
  • Norepinephrine
  • Antidepressant


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