Age and sex differences in reward behavior in adolescent and adult rats

Lindsey R. Hammerslag, Joshua M. Gulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Compared to adults, adolescents are at heightened risk for drug abuse and dependence. One of the factors contributing to this vulnerability may be age-dependent differences in reward processing, with adolescents approaching reward through stimulus-directed, rather than goal-directed, processes. However, the empirical evidence for this in rodent models of adolescence, particularly those that investigate both sexes, is limited. To address this, male and female rats that were adolescents (P30) or adults (P98) at the start of the experiment were trained in a Pavlovian approach (PA) task and were subsequently tested for the effects of reward devaluation, extinction, and re-acquisition. We found significant interactions between age and sex: females had enhanced acquisition of PA and poorer extinction, relative to males, while adolescents and females were less sensitive to reward devaluation than male adults. These results suggest that females and adolescents exhibit reward behavior that is more stimulus-directed, rather than goal-directed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-621
Number of pages11
JournalDevelopmental Psychobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


  • Pavlovian approach
  • adolescent
  • extinction
  • learning
  • rat
  • reacquisition
  • reward devaluation
  • reward processing
  • sex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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