Only the function relating the required pulse frequency to the interburst interval discriminates between the priming effect and the rewarding effect: Separating 2 short bursts of pulses has no effect on their combined rewarding effect, but it enhances their priming effect. There are significant nonscalar differences between animals in the number–current and charge–duration functions for priming and reward, but there are no significant differences in these functions between effects within animals. Substantially more electrical stimulation is required to produce good priming than to produce a reward that sustains maximum possible levels of performance. These findings suggest that the priming effect is a transient excitement generated by the receipt of one or more very large rewards. The discussion elaborates a model that reconciles this hypothesis with the earlier finding that the rewarding effect may be blocked pharmacologically without blocking priming.
Co-author: C. R. Gallistel
Published in Behavioral Neuroscience, volume 105, pp. 884 – 900, June 1991. Full text available at the publisher website here.