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J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2005 Nov;315(2):648-57. Epub 2005 Aug 2.

Prolonged increase in the sensitivity of the posterior ventral tegmental area to the reinforcing effects of ethanol following repeated exposure to cycles of ethanol access and deprivation.

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  • 1Institute of Psychiatric Research, Department of Psychiatry, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, 46202, USA.


The posterior ventral tegmental area (VTA) is a neuroanatomical substrate mediating the reinforcing effects of ethanol in rats. Repeated alcohol deprivations produce robust ethanol intakes of alcohol-preferring (P) rats during relapse and increase the reinforcing effects of oral alcohol self-administration. The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that alcohol drinking and repeated alcohol deprivations will increase the reinforcing effects of ethanol within the posterior VTA of P rats. Groups of female P rats were used (alcohol-naive, continuous access, and repeatedly deprived). Each rat was implanted with a guide cannula aimed at the posterior VTA. Depression of the active lever produced the infusion of 100 nl of artificial cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) or ethanol (25-300 mg%). Each rat was given only one ethanol concentration during the 4-h sessions conducted every other day. Compared with the infusions of artificial CSF, the alcohol-naive group reliably self-infused 75 and 150 mg% ethanol, but not the lower or higher concentrations. On the other hand, the continuous access group had significantly higher self-infusions of 50, 75, 150, and 300 mg% ethanol compared with artificial CSF infusions. The repeatedly deprived group also self-infused significantly more of 50, 75, 150, and 300 mg% ethanol than artificial CSF; moreover, the number of infusions for all four concentrations was higher in the repeatedly deprived versus the continuous access group. Chronic alcohol drinking by P rats increased the reinforcing effects of ethanol within the posterior VTA, and repeated alcohol deprivations produced a further increase in these reinforcing effects of ethanol.

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