2009: Patrick Johnson

University of Kansas

Patrick Johnson’s research interests have focused broadly on nonhuman decision-making processes. A primary line of research was inspired by clinical reports linking the dopaminergic drug pramipexole to emergent impulsive behavior (e.g., pathologic gambling) in Parkinson’s patients. Patrick’s degree project focused on the effects of pramipexole on rats’ choices for gambling-like behaviors or predictable schedules of reinforcement in an animal model of gambling. He found that pramipexole significantly increased preference for gambling-like outcomes relative to saline when administered under a baseline of low gambling preference. To determine whether pramipexole influences other forms of impulsivity (e.g., delay discounting), he has examined drug effects on preference for large versus small reinforcers as delivery of the large reinforcer becomes increasingly delayed within a session. Patrick is also engaged in an innovative line of behavioral economic research designed to explore conditions under which pigeons are likely to earn and save conditioned reinforcers (buttons on a touch-sensitive monitor) in exchange for food. His current and future studies are aimed at determining whether pigeons will spend conditioned reinforcers on gambling opportunities that probabilistically result in wins of additional conditioned reinforcers. 


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