Past outcomes and time flexibly exert joint control over midsession reversal performance in the rat

Cristina Santos, Federico Sanabria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In a midsession reversal task, subjects choose between two stimuli on every trial; only responses to one stimulus are reinforced. Halfway throughout the session, contingencies are reversed: previously reinforced responses are now extinguished and vice versa. Both, the outcome of the previous trial and the time elapsed since the beginning of the session, may predict the availability of reinforcement and determine choice. Thus, this task has typically been used to study cognitive flexibility and the temporal organization of behavior. This study assessed how past outcomes and time interact for behavioral control when each cue predicts the availability of reinforcement to a different extent. Eight rats were trained in four variations of the midsession reversal task differing in the reliability of outcomes and time as predictors of the reinforced response. We manipulated the reliability of the outcomes by providing either continuous or partial reinforcement, and the reliability of time by fixing the moment of reversal (middle of the session) or making the reversal unpredictable (semi-random trial). Results suggest that behavioral control alternates between outcomes and time according to the relative reliability of each cue. Model simulations show that outcomes and time may jointly determine behavior, and that momentary reinforcement rate may determine their relative influence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104028
JournalBehavioural processes
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Midsession reversal
  • Outcomes
  • Rat
  • Reinforcement
  • Timing
  • win-stay/lose-shift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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