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Alcohol. 1997 Mar-Apr;14(2):175-80.

Effects of early weaning and social isolation on subsequent alcohol intake in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Göteborgs University, Sweden.


The present study investigated the influence of early weaning and separation from mother and littermates on voluntary ethanol intake and general activity during prepuberal age, and adult age corticosterone levels. On day 16 after birth the male offspring of a litter were divided in three groups, each subjected to a different rearing condition: 1)early weaned and isolated from its littermates; 2) early weaned but growing up together with two littermates; 3) staying with mother and two littermates. On day 25 the animals were tested for general activity including assessment of fearfulness. From day 30 all animals were given a free choice between water and ethanol solution. The ethanol concentration was increased by 2% during each of the following weeks until 10% was reached during the 5th week. Ten days later, after cessation of alcohol testing, blood samples were taken from the tail for assessment of plasma levels corticosterone. The isolated, early weaning pups displayed higher activity levels than both normally reared pups and group-living, early weaning pups. The quotient peripheral locomotion/total locomotion was lower for the isolated pups compared with the other groups, suggesting less fearfulness in the early weaned, isolated pups. For 2%, 4%, and 6% ethanol solutions the normal-reared rats consumed more ethanol and displayed higher ethanol preference than either of the early weaned groups of animals. No group differences were observed either at 8% or 10% ethanol solutions. Levels of plasma corticosterone in adult age in the early weaned rats were slightly reduced, not reaching statistical significance, compared to the normally weaned animals.

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