The effect of chronic alcohol treatment on the radial maze performance of rats

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The effect of chronic alcohol drinking on maze behaviour was studied in laboratory rats. Thirteen animals received 20% alcohol for 15 weeks ad libitum, and 18 were kept under identical conditions drinking tap water. Both groups were then tested twice within one day for performance in an 8 arm radial maze after 48 h fluid deprivation. Reinforcing fluid droplets were placed at the end of each arm only at the beginning of the test. Total and erroneous entries to the arms, total time spent until reaching the criterion, and strategy of arm choice was recorded for each animal. Activity of the groups did not differ significantly, nor were differences in choosing strategy found. Alcoholic rats, however, showed a significant loss of performance in the second test: they frequently entered arms already visited, and in a number of cases were unable to complete the test within time. These and earlier findings suggest no impairment of learning ability or short term memory, but rather some kind of rigidity and invariability of behaviour.

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