Comparison of conventional and rapid acting antidepressants in a rodent probabilistic reversal learning task

Matthew P Wilkinson, John P Grogan, Jack R Mellor, Emma S J Robinson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Deficits in reward processing are a central feature of major depressive disorder with patients exhibiting decreased reward learning (RL) and altered feedback sensitivity in probabilistic reversal learning tasks (PRLTs). Methods to quantify probabilistic learning in both rodents and humans have been developed providing translational paradigms for depression research. We have utilised a PRLT to investigate potential differences between conventional and rapid-acting antidepressants on reward learning and feedback sensitivity. We trained 12 rats in a touchscreen PRLT before investigating the effect of acute administration of either citalopram, venlafaxine, reboxetine, ketamine or scopolamine. Data was also analysed using a Q-learning reinforcement learning model to understand the effects of antidepressant treatment on underlying reward processing parameters. Citalopram administration decreased trials taken to learn the first rule and increased win-stay probability. Reboxetine decreased win-stay behaviour while also decreasing the number of rule changes animals performed in a session. Venlafaxine had no effect. Ketamine and scopolamine both decreased win-stay probability, number of rule changes performed, and motivation in the task. Insights from the reinforcement learning model suggested that reboxetine led animals to choose a less optimal strategy while ketamine decreased the model-free learning rate. These results suggest that reward learning and feedback sensitivity are not differentially modulated by conventional and rapid-acting antidepressant treatment in the PRLT.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalBrain and Neuroscience Advances
Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2020


  • Antidepressants
  • major depressive disorder
  • probabilistic reversal learning
  • ketamine
  • cognitive flexibility
  • Q-learning
  • feedback sensitivity
  • citalopram


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