Demand theory can be applied to analyze how animal consumers change their selection of commodities in response to changes in commodity prices, given budget constraints. Previous work has shown that demand elasticities in rats differed between uncompensated budget conditions in which the budget available to be spent on the commodities (e.g., the finite number of discrete operants to "purchase" rewards in two-alternative fixed-ratio schedules) was kept constant, and compensated budget conditions in which the budget was adjusted so that consumers could potentially continue to obtain the original reward bundles. Here, we hypothesized that rat anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) was necessary to produce this budget effect on demand elasticities. We applied excitotoxic or sham lesions to ACC in rats performing an effort task in which the prices of liquid vanilla or chocolate rewards (the effort required to obtain rewards) and the budget (the total number of operants) was manipulated. When reward prices changed, and the budget was compensated, all rats adjusted their demand for chocolate and vanilla accordingly. In sham-lesioned rats, changes in demand were even more pronounced when the budget was not compensated for the price changes. By contrast, ACC-lesioned animals did not show this additional budget effect. An indepth comparison of the rats' choice patterns showed that, unlike sham rats, ACC-lesioned animals failed to maximize session-bundle utility after price/budget changes, revealing deficits in higher-order choice-strategy adaptations. Our results suggest a novel role of ACC in considering purchasing power during complex cost-benefit value computations.
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