Effects of Chronic Stress on Alcohol Reward- and Anxiety-Related Behavior in High- and Low-Alcohol Preferring Mice

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Stress exposure (SE) during adolescence is associated with an increased risk for the development of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Past research has shown that SE during adolescence increases voluntary alcohol consumption in mice during adulthood; however, little is known about the positive or negative motivational aspects of this relationship.


High-alcohol preferring (HAP2) and low-alcohol preferring (LAP2) male mice were exposed to stress during adolescence, stress during adulthood, or no stress. After a 30-day interim, subjects were exposed to alcohol-induced place and footshock-induced fear conditioning procedures to measure stress-induced behavioral alterations during adulthood.


SE during adolescence did not increase the magnitude of alcohol-induced conditioned place preference (CPP), as hypothesized, but increased the magnitude of conditioned fear, as measured by fear-potentiated startle (FPS), in HAP2 subjects only. Regardless of stress treatment group, LAP2 subjects showed greater alcohol-induced CPP expression than HAP2 mice. HAP2 mice also showed greater FPS than LAP2 mice, as previously shown.


These results in mice, taken together with past research, suggest that mice exposed to stress during adolescence do not increase alcohol consumption during adulthood because of a greater sensitivity to the rewarding effects of alcohol, as measured via place conditioning. These results in mice also suggest that humans exposed to stress during adolescence may be more susceptible to developing anxiety during adulthood. The findings may be particularly relevant for humans with a familial history of AUDs.

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