Dopamine Release During Ethanol Drinking in AA Rats

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The dopamine overflow in the nucleus accumbens of rats from the high alcohol drinking AA line was measured by microdialysis before, during, and after one-half hour sessions of cued drinking of ethanol flavored with saccharin and peppermint or, as a control, saccharin-peppermint drinking. The animals had had extensive previous experience with ethanol drinking. Self-administration of the ethanol solution did not raise the dopamine level substantially: there was a small (17%) but significant increase only during the first 10 min after the onset of drinking. Giving the rats a cue for ethanol, which was part of their daily routine drinking regime, did not raise the dopamine level before ethanol was presented to the rats (i.e., during "anticipation"). The results are consistent with our previous studies showing a lack of a large ethanol-induced dopamine response in rats with previous experience of drinking ethanol and with the idea that although dopamine may play some role in alcohol drinking, it is not the central substrate producing the reinforcement from ethanol in AA rats.

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