Individual differences in the incentive salience of signals to reward in human children
A number of studies have shown that non-human animals exhibit substantial individual differences in how quickly reward cues acquire incentive salience, that is, become rewarding themselves. Sign tracking is a behavioral pattern assoicated with reward cues gaining rapid incentive salience as evidenced by a bias in attention, approach, willingness to work for the cue, and eliciting a motivated state (craving). Sign tracking is associated with greater susceptibility to addiction as sign tracker animals are more motivated to seek out drugs and to relapse when in the presence of drug cues. This work has yet to be extended to humans. Therefore, we will develop and validate a paradigm to assess sign tracking in humans. Children will be used rather than adults, because children's emotional and behavioral reactions to reward cues are more comparable to animal models. This work will provide a bridge between animal and human neuroscience research on addiction.