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Neuropsychopharmacology. 2010 Jun;35(7):1453-63. doi: 10.1038/npp.2010.15. Epub 2010 Mar 3.

Long-Evans rats acquire operant self-administration of 20% ethanol without sucrose fading.

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Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center, University of California San Francisco, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA.


A major obstacle in the development of new medications for the treatment of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) has been the lack of preclinical, oral ethanol consumption paradigms that elicit high consumption. We have previously shown that rats exposed to 20% ethanol intermittently in a two-bottle choice paradigm will consume two times more ethanol than those given continuous access without the use of water deprivation or sucrose fading (5-6 g/kg every 24 h vs 2-3 g/kg every 24 h, respectively). In this study, we have adapted the model to an operant self-administration paradigm. Long-Evans rats were given access to 20% ethanol in overnight sessions on one of two schedules: (1) intermittent (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) or (2) daily (Monday through Friday). With the progression of the overnight sessions, both groups showed a steady escalation in drinking (3-6 g/kg every 14 h) without the use of a sucrose-fading procedure. Following the acquisition phase, the 20% ethanol groups consumed significantly more ethanol than did animals trained to consume 10% ethanol with a sucrose fade (1.5 vs 0.7 g/kg every 30 min) and reached significantly higher blood ethanol concentrations. In addition, training history (20% ethanol vs 10% ethanol with sucrose fade) had a significant effect on the subsequent self-administration of higher concentrations of ethanol. Administration of the pharmacological stressor yohimbine following extinction caused a significant reinstatement of ethanol-seeking behavior. Both 20% ethanol models show promise and are amenable to the study of maintenance, motivation, and reinstatement. Furthermore, training animals to lever press for ethanol without the use of sucrose fading removes a potential confound from self-administration studies.

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