Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Michael T. Bardo


Impulsive choice refers to the inability to delay gratification and is associated with increased drug abuse vulnerability. Understanding the underlying neural mechanisms linking impulsive choice and drug abuse can contribute to improved treatment options for individuals with substance use disorders. Evidence suggests a major role for nucleus accumbens core (NAcc) in impulsive choice and the reinforcing effects of drugs of abuse. The neurotransmitters glutamate (Glu) and dopamine (DA) are implicated in the neural adaptations observed in drug addiction; however, the role of intra-NAcc Glu and DA in impulsive choice is unclear. Rats were trained in a delay discounting task, in which animals chose between a small, immediate reinforcer and large, delayed reinforcer. Consistently choosing the small, immediate reinforcer was considered to reflect increased impulsivity. Following delay discounting, in vitro receptor autoradiography was performed to quantify the number of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors and dopamine transporters (DAT) in NAcc and nucleus accumbens shell (NAcSh). In a separate experiment, rats were trained in delay discounting and were implanted with guide cannulae into NAcc. Following surgery, rats received microinfusions of either a) the Glu-selective ligands MK-801 (noncompetitive NMDA receptor channel blocker; 0, 0.3, and 1.0 μg), AP-5 (competitive NMDA receptor antagonist; 0, 0.3, and 1.0 μg), ifenprodil (NMDA NR2B subunit antagonist; 0, 0.3, and 1.0 μg), and CNQX (AMPA receptor antagonist; 0, 0.2, and 0.5 μg) or b) the DA-selective ligands SKF 38393 (D1-like receptor agonist; 0, 0.03, and 0.1 μg), SCH 23390 (D1-like receptor antagonist; 0, 0.3, and 1.0 μg), quinpirole (D2-like receptor agonist; 0, 0.3, and 1.0 μg), and eticlopride (D2-like receptor antagonist; 0, 0.3, and 1.0 μg). In NAcc and NAcSh, NMDA receptor and DAT expression did not differ between high and low impulsive rats. Furthermore, intra-NAcc administration of NDMA and DA receptor ligands did not significantly alter impulsive choice. These results suggest that Glu and DA systems within NAcc do not directly mediate impulsive decision making. Future work is needed to determine the precise role of NAcc in mediating impulsive choice.