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Alcohol Alcohol. 2002 Nov-Dec;37(6):547-54.

Pairings of ethanol sipper with food induces Pavlovian autoshaping of ethanol drinking in rats: evidence of long-term retention and effects of sipper duration.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Center of Alcohol Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.



This study asks if repeated Pavlovian pairings of a sipper tube (conditioned stimulus, CS) with food (unconditioned stimulus, US) will induce Pavlovian autoshaping conditioned responses (CRs), consisting of drinking of either 6% ethanol or water from the sipper CS. This study also tests predictions derived from the autoshaping model by asking if sipper CS-directed drinking will be retained, despite the absence of training for several weeks, and, in addition, if drinking rate is a negative function of sipper CS duration.


Autoshaping procedures, conducted in two daily sessions, consisted of the brief insertion of the sipper tube CS followed by the response-independent presentation of food US. For the Ethanol group (n = 8), the sipper CS contained 6% ethanol, whereas for the Water group (n = 8), the sipper CS contained tap water. Saccharin fading procedures were employed, whereas for both groups, during days 1-19, the sipper CS contained 0.1% saccharin, and thereafter across training days the concentration of saccharin was gradually reduced (0.07, 0.035, 0.0%). Following elimination of saccharin, both groups were maintained in their home cages during a 27-day retention interval, and then re-evaluated for autoshaping of drinking of unsweetened ethanol and water. Thereafter, across days, the duration of access to the sipper CS (5.0, 7.5, 10.0, 15.0 s) during each autoshaping trial was increased.


Both groups increased drinking across the first 19 days of training with sipper CS-food US pairings, and, at 0.0% saccharin, the Ethanol group consumed 14.76 ml of 6% ethanol per day, resulting in a daily ethanol consumption of 2.77 g/kg. For both groups, daily levels of drinking before and after the 27-day retention interval were comparable, attesting to the durability of the acquired drinking effects. At each CS duration, the Ethanol group consumed more millilitres of fluid per day than did the Water group, and for the Ethanol group, peak drinking of 24.0 ml of 6% ethanol per day was observed at the 10 s CS duration. For both groups, drinking rate (millilitres of fluid consumed per second of CS duration), was a declining monotonic function of CS duration, resulting in a daily ethanol consumption of approximately 4.2 g/kg for the Ethanol group.


These data reveal that these sipper CS-food US autoshaping procedures induce drinking in rats that is durable and negatively related to increasing CS duration. The effects of both variables are consistent with the hypothesis that drinking from the sipper CS is a Pavlovian autoshaping CR. Autoshaping of drinking in the Water group is observed despite the absence of water deprivation, and even more fluid is consumed by the Ethanol group than by the Water group. The high volumes of ethanol consumed during brief daily sessions suggest that Pavlovian autoshaping procedures may provide an animal learning model of binge drinking.

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