Female Sprague-Dawley rats display greater appetitive and consummatory responses to alcohol
The narrowing of the gender gap in alcohol drinking patterns is a concern because women are more susceptible to adverse health consequences of alcohol use. Animal models of alcohol-seeking and -consuming are useful to delineate sex differences to test for effective sex-specific pharmacological treatments. We investigated potential sex differences in appetitive and consummatory responses to alcohol. Appetitive behaviors included numbers of head entries into the dipper access area and active lever presses. Consummatory behaviors included number of reinforcers delivered and consumed. Male and female Sprague-Dawley rats were placed on an overnight alcohol (10%) drinking schedule and trained to lever press for alcohol (10% solution). Separate groups of male and female animals had access to water overnight and were trained to lever press for sucrose (3% solution). Tests were conducted under a progressive ratio schedule of reinforcement. Alcohol-responding females demonstrated higher alcohol intake overnight and showed greater appetitive and consummatory responses compared to males. Similar sex differences were seen in the sucrose group. Effect sizes indicated greater sex differences in consummatory measures in the alcohol vs. sucrose groups. Conversely, greater sex differences in appetitive behaviors were observed in the sucrose vs. alcohol groups. Overall, the magnitude of the sex differences was stronger for appetitive behaviors compared to consummatory behaviors. Findings of quantitative sex differences in appetitive and consummatory behaviors for alcohol and for the natural reinforcer, sucrose, suggest this procedure is useful to assess efficacy of sex-specific treatments aimed at reducing appetitive and consummatory responses to alcohol.