In this paper we propose an integrative model of habituation of reinforcer effectiveness (HRE) that links behavioral-and neural-based explanations of reinforcement. We argue that HRE is a fundamental property of reinforcing stimuli. Most reinforcement models implicitly suggest that the effectiveness of a reinforcer is stable across repeated presentations. In contrast, an HRE approach predicts decreased effectiveness due to repeated presentation. We argue that repeated presentation of reinforcing stimuli decreases their effectiveness and that these decreases are described by the behavioral characteristics of habituation (McSweeney and Murphy, 2009; Rankin et al., 2009). We describe a neural model that pos-tulates a positive association between dopamine neurotransmission and HRE. We present evidence that stimulant drugs, which artificially increase dopamine neurotransmission, disrupt (slow) normally occurring HRE and also provide evidence that stimulant drugs have differential effects on operant responding maintained by reinforcers with rapid vs. slow HRE rates. We hypothesize that abnormal HRE due to genetic and/or environmental factors may underlie some behavioral disorders. For example, recent research indicates that slow-HRE is predictive of obesity. In contrast ADHD may reflect accelerated-HRE. Consideration of HRE is important for the development of effective reinforcement-based treatments. Finally, we point out that most of the reinforcing stimuli that regulate daily behavior are non-consumable environmental/social reinforcers which have rapid-HRE. The almost exclusive use of consumable reinforcers with slow-HRE in pre-clinical studies with animals may have caused the importance of HRE to be overlooked. Further study of reinforcing stimuli with rapid-HRE is needed in order to understand how habituation and reinforcement interact and regulate behavior.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience