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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2018 Sep;42(9):1795-1806. doi: 10.1111/acer.13825. Epub 2018 Jul 31.

Modeling Relapse to Pavlovian Alcohol-Seeking in Rats Using Reinstatement and Spontaneous Recovery Paradigms.

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Department of Psychology, Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology/FRQS Groupe de recherche en neurobiologie comportementale, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



Animal models are critical for studying causal explanations of relapse. Using a Pavlovian conditioning procedure with alcohol, we examined relapse after extinction triggered by either re-exposure to alcohol (reinstatement) or a delay between extinction and test (spontaneous recovery).


Male, Long-Evans rats were acclimated to 15% alcohol in the home-cage using an intermittent-access 2-bottle choice procedure. Next, they received Pavlovian conditioning sessions in which an auditory-conditioned stimulus (CS; 20 second white noise; 8 trials/session; variable time 240 seconds) was paired with 15% alcohol (0.3 ml/CS; 2.4 ml/session) that was delivered into a fluid port for oral ingestion. In subsequent extinction and test sessions, CS presentations occurred as before, but without alcohol.


In experiment 1, exposure to either alcohol or water in the fluid port following extinction reinstated CS-elicited port entries at test 24 hours later. In a follow-up study using the same procedure (experiment 2), reinstatement was more robustly stimulated by alcohol, compared to a familiar lemon-flavored liquid. In experiment 3, systemic alcohol injections (0, 0.5, or 1.0 g/kg, intraperitoneal) administered either 24 hours or 15 minutes before test did not reinstate CS-elicited alcohol-seeking. Importantly, enzymatic assays in experiment 4 revealed detectable levels of alcohol in the blood following oral alcohol intake or intraperitoneal injection, suggesting that a pharmacological effect was likely with either route of administration. Last, in experiment 5, a 23-day delay between extinction and test resulted in a robust spontaneous recovery of CS-elicited alcohol-seeking.


The reinstatement and spontaneous recovery effects revealed herein provide evidence of viable new behavioral paradigms for testing interventions against relapse.


Alcohol Use Disorders; Ethanol; Goal Tracking; Pavlovian-Conditioned Approach; Priming


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