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Date of Award

Summer 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Department of Graduate Psychology

Abstract

The effects of sleep deprivation on risk-taking behavior have been minimally investigated, observing only the effects of total sleep deprivation in human models. Additionally, the research has shown mixed results. In a chronically sleep deprived society where many people (e.g. military, medical doctors) require rapid decision making to ensure the safety and welfare of others, it is of interest to investigate the effects of chronic partial sleep deprivation on risk-taking behavior in a rodent model. The current study examined the effects of 5 days of partial sleep deprivation on risk-taking behavior in Wistar Han rats as measured by the Rodent Gambling Task. Ten rats were placed in a slowly rotating wheel for 18 hours a day for 5 consecutive days followed by 2 days of recovery sleep. The rats’ risk-taking behavior was measured each day using the Rodent Gambling Task (RGT). This task allows rats to nose-poke among 4 holes to obtain an immediate reinforcer along with a probabilistic delay. Larger, immediate reinforcers are associated with longer probable delays whereas smaller immediate reinforcers are associated with shorter probable delays. Thus, across time, selecting the larger, immediate reward is considered to be a risky decision, as the rats lose the opportunity to gain reinforcers. We measured behavior across the entire experimental period and during two “recovery” days where they could obtain ad lib sleep. There was no significant effect of sleep deprivation on risk-taking behavior. There are multiple explanations for these results, one of which suggests that the RGT is not a valid measure of risk-taking behavior. More biologically relevant measures of risk-taking behavior should be explored.

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