Traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects 2.8 million people annually in the United States, with significant populations suffering from ongoing cognitive dysfunction. Impairments in decision-making can have major implications for patients and their caregivers, often enduring for years to decades, yet are rarely explored in experimental TBI. In the current study, the Rodent Gambling Task (RGT), an Iowa Gambling Task analog, was used to assess risk-based decision-making and motor impulsivity after TBI. During testing, rats chose between options associated with different probabilities of reinforcement (sucrose) or punishment (timeout). To determine effects of TBI on learned behaviors versus the learning process, rats were trained either before, or after, a bilateral frontal controlled cortical impact TBI, and then assessed for 12 weeks. To evaluate the degree to which monoamine systems, such as dopamine, were affected by TBI, rats were given an amphetamine challenge, and behavior recorded. Injury immediately and chronically decreased optimal decision-making, and biased rats towards both riskier, and safer (but suboptimal) choices, regardless of prior learning history. TBI also increased motor impulsivity across time, reflecting ongoing neural changes. Despite these similarities in trained and acquisition rats, those that learned the task after injury demonstrated reduced effects of amphetamine on optimal decision-making, suggesting a lesser role of monoamines in post-injury learning. Amphetamine also dose-dependently reduced motor impulsivity in injured rats. This study opens up the investigation of psychiatric-like dysfunction in animal models of TBI and tasks such as the RGT will be useful in identifying therapeutics for the chronic post-injury period.
Shaver, T. K., Ozga, J. E., Zhu, B., Anderson, K. G., Martens, K. M., & Vonder Haar, C. (2019). Long-term deficits in risky decision-making after traumatic brain injury on a rat analog of the Iowa gambling task. Brain Research, 1704, 103–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainres.2018.10.004