Thomas A. Ban
Neuropsychopharmacology in Historical Perspective
Education in the Field in the Post-Neuropsychopharmacology Era
Background to An Oral History of the First Fifty Years
Addiction (Volume Six): 3. Conditioning and addiction
( Bulletin 56)
Recognition by the 1950s that conditioning, classical or operant, plays a role in the pathogenesis of addiction, lead to the identification of brain structures and biochemical substrates involved in addiction. The signal difference between the two paradigms of conditioning is that in classical conditioning the establishment and retention of conditioned reflex (CR) depends exclusively on the associated administration of the conditioned and unconditional stimuli, whereas in instrumental conditioning, a third factor, reward or punishment, that follows the reflex also plays a role (Ban 1964, 1966).
The roots of the instrumental paradigm of conditioning are in Edward Thorndike’s recognition in 1911 that some behavior is regulated by its consequences. Miller and Konorski were first, in the late 1920s, to describe what was to become the instrumental paradigm of conditioning, in which the establishment and retention of a CR depended on reward or punishment that followed the reflex (Miller and Konorski 1928; Thorndike 1911). From the two modern learning theories, “contiguity theory” is based on the classical paradigm and “reinforcement theory” on the instrumental. For Edward Ray Guthrie and Edward C. Tolman the basic condition necessary for learning is that of contiguity of experience (Guthrie 1930, 1934; Tolman 1932, 1936). For Clark L. Hull drive reduction is crucial. If in the course of trial and error responses the organism performs the response that is associated with the reduction of motivation, the probability increases that the response will occur again under similar conditions. In Hull’s “law of effect,” drive reduction is the “principle of reinforcement” (Hull 1929, 1930, 1943).
In the mid-1930s, H. Schlossberg demonstrated that involuntary visceral reactions, mediated by the autonomic nervous system, follow the principle of association or “sheer contiguity,” whereas voluntary “precise adaptive responses” of the skeletal muscles follow the principle of success or reinforcement (Schlossberg 1934, 1936, 1937). Schlossberg’s “two-factor theory” was further elaborated by Burrhus Frederic Skinner, who introduced the term “operant behavior” and replaced the term “instrumental conditioning” with the term “operant conditioning.” For Skinner, the difference between the two paradigms of conditioning is that in “operant conditioning” the animal only receives the reinforcing, rewarding stimulus, if it does something, e.g., operates a lever (Hilgard and Marquis 1940). He argues that a stimulus is reinforcing if it strengthens the response that precedes it regardless whether it satisfies a drive (Skinner 1931, 1936, 1938).
In the early 1950s Delgado, Roberts and Miller at Yale University began work on learning and electrical brain stimulation. They found that stimulating a number of areas deep in the brain made the animals react if they were in pain. The animal could be taught to avoid an electrical stimulation in the area of its brain associated with pain as it could be conditioned to avoid a painful stimulus to the body (Delgado, Roberts and Miller 1954). In 1954, the same year Delgado and his associates published their findings, James Olds and Peter Milner at McGill University reported that they found areas in the brain where electrical stimulation was sought by the rat (Olds and Milner 1954). With electrodes implanted in the septal area, one of the “pleasure centers,” some rats in Olds’ experiments stimulated themselves as often as 500 times per hour (Olds 1956). Olds and his associates described the topographic organization of hypothalamic self-stimulation functions, employed self-stimulation of the brain as a screening method for tranquilizing drugs and demonstrated “positive reinforcement” produced by stimulating certain areas in the hypothalamus with iproniazid and other drugs (Olds, Killam and Bachy-Rita 1957; Olds and Olds 1958; Olds, Travis and Schwing 1960).
An operant behavioral method for studying self-maintained morphine addiction with implanted electrodes in the “pleasure” centers was first developed in 1961 by Weeks (Weeks 1961, 1962). Martin demonstrated in the 1960s that a “protracted abstinence syndrome” (PAS) could be found six to nine months after stopping chronic opiate use in both humans and animals (Martin and Jasinski 1969).
This was the state of art in the biology of addiction research at the time neuropsychopharmacology was born.
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February 7, 2019