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Alcohol. 2010 Feb;44(1):67-80. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2009.09.034.

Alcohol response and consumption in adolescent rhesus macaques: life history and genetic influences.

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Laboratory of Clinical and Translational Studies, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


The use of alcohol by adolescents is a growing problem and has become an important research topic in the etiology of the alcohol use disorders. A key component of this research has been the development of animal models of adolescent alcohol consumption and alcohol response. Because of their extended period of adolescence, rhesus macaques are especially well suited for modeling alcohol-related phenotypes that contribute to the adolescent propensity for alcohol consumption. In this review, we discuss studies from our laboratory that have investigated both the initial response to acute alcohol administration and the consumption of alcohol in voluntary self-administration paradigms in adolescent rhesus macaques. These studies confirm that adolescence is a time of dynamic change both behaviorally and physiologically, and that alcohol response and alcohol consumption are influenced by life history variables, such as age, sex, and adverse early experience in the form of peer-rearing. Furthermore, genetic variants that alter functioning of the serotonin, endogenous opioid, and corticotropin-releasing hormone systems are shown to influence both physiological and behavioral outcomes, in some cases interacting with early experience to indicate gene by environment interactions. These findings highlight several of the pathways involved in alcohol response and consumption, namely reward, behavioral dyscontrol, and vulnerability to stress, and demonstrate a role for these pathways during the early stages of alcohol exposure in adolescence.

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