Probably Discounting: Choosing a Reward

Hi Everyone!

My name is Austin Tapp and I am a freshman at the College.  This is my first summer conducting research for the Neuroscience Department and I am excited about this opportunity! For my research I will be studying probability discounting and the extent to which individuals discount risky reward.

Probability discounting is typically assessed in paradigms that only offer two choices: one choice which is a small and immediate reward or one which is a large and delayed reward.  My research will develop a novel probability discounting task that will consist of three choices:  one reward which is small and immediate, one which is large and delayed and one which is even larger and even more delayed.  In addition, it has previously been shown that nicotine can increase risky decision-making in the probability discounting tasks. I will test whether nicotine produces similar effects when there are multiple risky rewards.

Most two choice probability discounting tasks suggest areas of the brain such as the orbitofrontal cortex and the amygdala are involved with decision making.  I will extend this work by developing a 3-choice task that will identify parts of the brain involved in higher level decision making. By identifying areas of the brain involved in complex decision making I hope to pinpoint other areas of the limbic system that are involved with impulsivity.

Thanks for reading and I’ll keep you all updated!




  1. emilymasi says:

    Your research sounds really interesting! Even though we were in lab together our research didn’t really overlap. What was the risky reward? And what was your 3- choice task? I’m interested to hear your results.

  2. Hi Emily, thanks for the comment! Much like your research, I am using water as a reward for the test subjects. The risk of the decision making process is the possibility that the individuals may not be receiving their reward. So when the rats decide to enter a water port they have the option of choosing a small reward with a high percentage chance or they may take a risk when they choose a large reward with a low percentage chance. As for the 3 choice task, that will be tested more as our rats pass through the final stages of their training. I’ll keep you updated on the results and I hope you had a great summer!