Loss of control over alcohol seeking in rats depends on individual vulnerability and duration of alcohol consumption experience

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Abstract

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterized by excessive alcohol use and persistent alcohol seeking despite knowledge of its negative consequences. Importantly, AUD typically develops after chronic excessive alcohol use in a subgroup of individuals who drink alcohol, suggesting that AUD results from an interaction between individual vulnerability and prolonged alcohol exposure. The present study assessed the contribution of prolonged exposure to alcohol and individual levels of alcohol intake to the development of loss of control over alcohol seeking in a conditioned suppression model. To investigate the impact of prolonged alcohol exposure, conditioned suppression of alcohol seeking was assessed after 2 and 4 months of intermittent alcohol access (IAA) in a subgroup of rats drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. We observed that suppression of alcohol seeking was reduced after 4 months compared with 2 months of IAA. The influence of individual levels of alcohol intake on loss of control over alcohol seeking was subsequently determined by assessing conditioned suppression in subgroups of low and high alcohol drinking rats. Unlike the low alcohol drinking rats, the high alcohol drinking rats showed aversion-resistant alcohol seeking after 2 months of IAA, although both groups showed comparable levels of conditioned freezing. These findings show that the development of loss of control over alcohol seeking, a key characteristic of AUD in humans, is dependent on both the extent of alcohol exposure and the individual’s propensity to consume alcohol.

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