Individual differences in risk-related behaviors and voluntary alcohol intake in outbred Wistar rats

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Some personality traits and comorbid psychiatric diseases are linked to a propensity for excessive alcohol drinking. The objective of this study was to investigate the association between individual differences in risk-related behaviors, voluntary alcohol intake and preference. Outbred male Wistar rats were tested in a novel open field, followed by assessment of behavioral profiles using the multivariate concentric square field (MCSF) test. Animals were classified into high risk taking and low risk taking on the basis of open-field behavior and into high risk-assessing (HRA) and low risk-assessing (LRA) on the basis of the MCSF profile. Finally, voluntary alcohol intake was investigated using intermittent access to 20% ethanol and water for 5 weeks. Only minor differences in voluntary alcohol intake were found between high risk taking and low risk taking. Differences between HRA and LRA rats were more evident, with higher intake and increased intake over time in HRA relative to LRA rats. Thus, individual differences in risk-assessment behavior showed greater differences in voluntary alcohol intake than risk taking. The findings may relate to human constructs of decision-making and risk taking associated with a predisposition to rewarding and addictive behaviors. Further studies are needed to clarify the relationship between risk-related behaviors, including risk-assessment behavior, and liability for excessive alcohol intake.

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