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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2000 Aug;24(8):1172-9.

Ethanol reinforcement in nondeprived mice: effects of abstinence and naltrexone.

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Center for Drug and Alcohol Programs, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA.



Operant experiments which indicate that ethanol can serve as a reinforcer to maintain lever responding during limited periods of access have not been conducted on non-food-deprived mice, as they have for rats and monkeys. Furthermore, there are no reports of the effects of chronic ethanol and subsequent abstinence on ethanol reward in mice. Finally, although naltrexone reduces responding for ethanol in food-deprived mice, the effects of the drug on ethanol reward for non-food-deprived mice have not been reported.


In three experiments, lever responding for ethanol (10-12%) was established in C57BL/6 (B6) mice by using either sucrose or saccharin fading procedures commonly used for rats. Experiment 1 examined both appetitive and consummatory responses while sucrose was faded from the ethanol solutions. Experiment 2 examined lever responding and ethanol intake (1) during saccharin fading; (2) when reinforcement schedules, reward availability, and primary conditioned reinforcers were manipulated; and (3) when mice were allowed chronic ethanol consumption followed by forced abstinence. Experiment 3 examined the effects of low doses of naltrexone on ethanol reward.


Lever responding for ethanol can be established in non-food-deprived mice with the sucrose and saccharin fading procedures commonly used for rats. Lever responses increased with decreases in the reinforcer and increases in schedule demand, which indicated the reward value of the ethanol solution. Removal of ethanol from the solution reduced consumption with no change in the appetitive, instrumental response, which indicated that the two responses were under control of different stimuli, perhaps mediated by different neural mechanisms. Forced abstinence after chronic ethanol exposure increased responding for the drug, which suggested increased reward value. Naltrexone reduced responding as previously reported for food-deprived B6 mice.


Ethanol appears to serve as a reinforcer for non-food-deprived or non-water-deprived B6 mice. Its reinforcing effects are increased by forced abstinence after chronic exposure and are decreased by naltrexone.

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