Impulsive Choice Predicts Anxiety-Like Behavior, but not Alcohol or Sucrose Consumption, in Male Long-Evans Rats

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Prior human research indicates robust, positive relations between impulsive choice (i.e., preference for smaller, immediate over larger, delayed rewards) and alcohol use disorders. However, varied findings in the nonhuman literature reveal a relatively ambiguous relation between impulsive choice and alcohol consumption in rodents. In addition, few rodent studies have investigated potential relations between impulsive choice and common covariates of alcohol consumption (e.g., avidity for sweet substances or anxiety-like behavior).


Ninety-two male Long-Evans rats completed an impulsive-choice task. From this larger sample, extreme high- and low-impulsive groups (n = 30 each) were retained for further testing. In separate tests, subsequent open-field behavior and consumption of oral alcohol (12% w/v) and isocaloric sucrose were examined. Impulsive choice was then retested to examine whether behavior remained stable over the course of the experiment.


No significant relations emerged between impulsive choice and either alcohol or sucrose consumption. However, impulsive choice predicted greater anxiety-like behavior (avoidance of the center field, defecation) in the open-field test. In turn, greater anxiety predicted lower alcohol and sucrose consumption. Finally, choice remained generally stable across the experiment, although high-impulsive rats tended toward less impulsive choice in the retest.


Although impulsive choice and alcohol consumption appear to share some variance with anxiety-like behavior, the present data offer no support for a relation between impulsive choice and alcohol consumption in Long-Evans rats. Together with mixed rodent data from prior reports, these findings attenuate cross-species comparisons to human relations between impulsive choice and alcohol use disorders.

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