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© 2018, The Author(s). This review is concerned with methods for assessing the processing of unrewarded responses in experimental animals and the mechanisms underlying performance of these tasks. A number of clinical populations, including Parkinson’s disease, depression, compulsive disorders, and schizophrenia demonstrate either abnormal processing or learning from non-rewarded responses in laboratory-based reinforcement learning tasks. These effects are hypothesized to result from disturbances in modulatory neurotransmitter systems, including dopamine and serotonin. Parallel work in experimental animals has revealed consistent behavioral patterns associated with non-reward and, consistent with the human literature, modulatory roles for specific neurotransmitters. Classical tests involving an important reward omission component include appetitive extinction, ratio schedules of responding, reversal learning, and delay and probability discounting procedures. In addition, innovative behavioral tests have recently been developed leverage probabilistic feedback to specifically assay accommodation of, and learning from, non-rewarded responses. These procedures will be described and reviewed with discussion of the behavioral and neural determinants of performance. A final section focusses specifically on the benefits of trial-by-trial analysis of responding during such tasks, and the implications of such analyses for the translation of findings to clinical studies.


Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

This article was published as:

Phillips, B.U., Lopez-Cruz, L., Saksida, L.M. et al. Translational tests involving non-reward: methodological considerations. Psychopharmacology 236, 449–461 (2019).

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.