The rat Gambling Task (rGT)

Highly salient win-associated cues are a significant component of human gambling, and are thought to play a role in individual sensitivity to addiction and the propensity to relapse. In both substance abuse and gambling, cues seem to encourage risky and ultimately disadvantageous behaviour (such as continually gambling in hopes of achieving a big win or going back to drug taking after a period of abstinence). Despite the apparent importance of cues to these behaviours, insights into the relationship between cues and decision-making have mostly been based on simple pavlovian learning paradigms; to our knowledge there are no tasks examining the role of cues in complex decision-making. We have thus developed a task called the cued Rat Gambling Task (cued rGT) to examine the potential influence of salient win-associated cues on decision-making. Wins on the cued rGT’s disadvantageous options are paired with disproportionally salient win cues. The pairing of salient cues to disadvantageously risky options is similar to human gambling paradigms in which large, often risky wins are more saliently cued than small wins or losses. Preliminary results suggest win-related cues can drive a disadvantageously risky decision-making preference, and that this effect may be uniquely mediated by dopaminergic D2 receptors. Our continued use of this model will give us more insight into cue-mediated decision making and its neurobiological underpinnings.


Barrus MM, Hosking JG, Zeeb FD, Tremblay M, Winstanley CA. (2014). Disadvantageous decision-making on a rodent gambling task is associated with increased motor impulsivity in a population of male rats. J Psychiatry Neurosci.

Zeeb FD, Winstanley CA. (2013). Functional disconnection of the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala impairs acquisition of a rat gambling task and disrupts animals’ ability to alter decision-making behavior after reinforcer devaluation. J Neurosci.

Baarendse PJ, Winstanley CA, Vanderschuren LJ. (2013). Simultaneous blockade of dopamine and noradrenaline reuptake promotes disadvantageous decision making in a rat gambling task. Psychopharmacology.

Zeeb FD, Wong AC, Winstanley CA. (2013). Differential effects of environmental enrichment, social-housing, and isolation-rearing on a rat gambling task: dissociations between impulsive action and risky decision-making. Psychopharmacology.

Zeeb FD, Winstanley CA. (2011). Lesions of the basolateral amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex differentially affect acquisition and performance of a rodent gambling task. J Neurosci.

Zeeb FD, Robbins TW, Winstanley CA. (2009). Serotonergic and dopaminergic modulation of gambling behavior as assessed using a novel rat gambling task. Neuropsychopharmacology.