Early and Prolonged Exposure to Reward Delay: Effects on Impulsive Choice and Alcohol Self-Administration in Male Rats

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Naturally occurring impulsive choice has been found to positively predict alcohol consumption in rats. However, the extent to which experimental manipulation of impulsive choice may modify alcohol consumption remains unclear. In the present study, we sought to: (a) train low levels of impulsive choice in rats using early, prolonged exposure to reward delay, and (b) determine the effects of this manipulation on subsequent alcohol consumption. During a prolonged training regimen, three groups of male, adolescent Long-Evans rats (21–22 days old at intake) responded on a single lever for food rewards delivered after either a progressively increasing delay, a fixed delay, or no delay. Posttests of impulsive choice were conducted, as was an evaluation of alcohol consumption using a limited-access, two-bottle test. Following delay-exposure training, both groups of delay-exposed rats made significantly fewer impulsive choices than did rats in the no-delay group. In addition, fixed-delay rats consumed significantly more alcohol during daily, 30-min sessions than no-delay rats. Possible mechanisms of these effects are discussed, as is the significance of these findings to nonhuman models of addiction.

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