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During decisions, animals balance goal achievement and effort management. Despite physical exercise and fatigue significantly affecting the levels of effort that an animal exerts to obtain a reward, their role in effort-based choice and the underlying neurochemistry are incompletely known. In particular, it is unclear whether fatigue influences decision (cost-benefit) strategies flexibly or only post-decision action execution and learning. To answer this question, we trained mice on a T-maze task in which they chose between a high-cost, high-reward arm (HR), which included a barrier, and a low-cost, low-reward arm (LR), with no barrier. The animals were parametrically fatigued immediately before the behavioural tasks by running on a treadmill. We report a sharp choice reversal, from the HR to LR arm, at 80% of their peak workload (PW), which was temporary and specific, as the mice returned to choose the HC when the animals were successively tested at 60% PW or in a two-barrier task. These rapid reversals are signatures of flexible choice. We also observed increased subcortical dopamine levels in fatigued mice: a marker of individual bias to use model-based control in humans. Our results indicate that fatigue levels can be incorporated in flexible cost-benefits computations that improve foraging efficiency.

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