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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2009 Mar;33(3):522-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00865.x. Epub 2008 Dec 19.

Ethanol-induced conditioned taste avoidance: reward or aversion?

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Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA.



Rats avoid intake of a palatable taste cue when paired with all drugs of abuse tested. Evidence suggests that, at least for morphine and cocaine, rats avoid the taste cue because they are anticipating the rewarding properties of the drug. Thus, the suppressive effects of a rewarding sucrose solution and cocaine, but not those of the putatively aversive agent, lithium chloride (LiCl), are exaggerated in drug-sensitive Lewis rats. Likewise, the suppressive effects of sucrose and morphine, but not those of LiCl, are eliminated by bilateral lesions of the gustatory thalamus. Unlike morphine and cocaine, it is less clear whether rewarding or aversive drug properties are responsible for ethanol-induced suppression of intake of a taste cue. The present set of studies tests whether, like cocaine, ethanol-induced suppression of intake of a taste cue also is greater in the drug-sensitive Lewis rats and whether the suppressive effects of the drug are prevented by bilateral lesions of the taste thalamus.


In Experiment 1, fluid-deprived Lewis and Fischer rats were given 5-minute access to 0.15% saccharin and then injected with saline or a range of doses of ethanol (0.5, 0.75, 1.0, or 1.5 g/kg). There was a total of 6 such pairings. In Experiments 2 and 3, Sprague-Dawley rats received bilateral electrophysiologically guided lesions of the gustatory thalamus. After recovery, suppression of intake of the saccharin cue was evaluated following repeated daily pairings with either a high (1.5 g/kg) or a low (0.75 g/kg) dose of ethanol.


Ethanol-induced suppression of intake of the saccharin conditioned stimulus (CS) did not differ between the drug-sensitive Lewis rats relative to the less-sensitive Fischer rats. Lesions of the taste thalamus, however, prevented the suppressive effect of the 0.75 g/kg dose of the drug, but had no impact on the suppressive effect of the 1.5 g/kg dose of ethanol.


The results suggest that the suppressive effects of ethanol on CS intake are mediated by both rewarding and aversive consequences, varying as a function of dose.

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