Environments predicting intermittent shortening access reduce operant performance but not home cage binge size in rats

F. H.E. Wojnicki, R. K. Babbs, R. L.W. Corwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


When non-food-deprived rats are given brief access to vegetable shortening (a semi-solid fat used in baked products) on an intermittent basis (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), they consume significantly more and emit more operant responses for shortening than a separate group of rats given brief access to shortening every day. Since both groups are traditionally housed in the same room, it is possible that the environmental cues associated with placing shortening in the cages (e.g., investigator in room, cages opening and closing, etc.) provide predictable cues to the daily group, but unpredictable cues to the intermittent group. The present study examined the effects of providing predictable environmental cues to an isolated intermittent group in order to examine the independent contributions of intermittency and predictability on intake and operant performance. Two groups of rats were housed in the same room, with one group provided 30-min intermittent (INT) access and the second group provided 30-min daily access (D) to shortening. A third group (ISO) of rats was housed in a room by themselves in which all environmental cues associated with intermittent shortening availability were highly predictable. After five weeks of home cage shortening access, all rats were then exposed to several different operant schedules of reinforcement. The INT and ISO groups consumed significantly more shortening in the home cage than the D group. In contrast, the INT group earned significantly more reinforcers than both the ISO and D groups under all but one of the reinforcement schedules, while ISO and D did not differ. These data indicate that intermittent access will generate binge-type eating in the home cage independent of cue predictability. However, predictable cues in the home cage reduce operant responding independent of intermittent access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-43
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - May 7 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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