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Behav Brain Res. 2016 Oct 1;312:272-8. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2016.06.028. Epub 2016 Jun 17.

Prior alcohol consumption does not impair go/no-go discrimination learning, but causes over-responding on go trials, in rats.

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Department of Psychological Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, United States. Electronic address:
Department of Psychological Sciences, College of Arts & Sciences, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, United States.
Department of Anatomy and Physiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, United States.


Prior alcohol use is associated with impaired response inhibition in humans, including in laboratory go/no-go discrimination tasks. In two experiments, we determined whether chronic intermittent access to alcohol would alter go/no-go discrimination learning. Rats received 4-6 weeks of chronic intermittent access to 20% alcohol (alone or accompanied by saline or 1.5g/kg alcohol injections) or water. Rats then began discrimination training 4-5days after the end of the alcohol access. Each lever was available for 40s with one lever intermittently reinforced ("active lever") and the other lever non-reinforced ("inactive lever"). The rats given access to alcohol without concurrent alcohol injections drank ∼10g/kg/24-h on average during the last three weeks of alcohol access. The groups given alcohol injections (Alcohol+Injection groups) exhibited suppressed drinking, but the Alcohol+Injection groups exhibited higher blood alcohol spikes than all other alcohol groups (195 vs. 85-90mg/dl, respectively). We found no evidence for impaired go/no-go discrimination learning in either experiment. However, the alcohol access groups with moderate-to-high average alcohol consumption (>3g/kg/24-h) exhibited over-responding to the active lever compared to the water-only groups. One group given alcohol injections (Alcohol+Injection group) that exhibited very low voluntary drinking (<1g/kg/24-h) did not exhibit the over-responding effect, suggesting that the total 24-h alcohol dose matters more than short-lived blood alcohol spikes. Our findings are in accord with previous research showing that repeated alcohol withdrawal causes over-responding for responses that lead to limited reinforcement. Future work will determine the psychological and neurobiological basis of this behavioral change.


Alcohol; Discrimination learning; Impulsivity; Inhibitory control; Operant conditioning; Withdrawal

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