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Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 1998 Sep;61(1):131-42.

Learning and tolerance to the ataxic effect of ethanol.

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McMaster University, Department of Psychology, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


It has been well documented that drug-associated cues are important for the development and expression of drug tolerance. The Pavlovian conditioning analysis of tolerance emphasizes the importance of a drug-associated cues to tolerance by equating a drug administration with a learning trial. According to this analysis, tolerance should be subject to external inhibition, the disruption of a conditional response by a novel stimulus. We previously reported that tolerance to the ataxic effect of ethanol was attenuated by a novel strobe/noise presentation (31). In this article we report evidence of a compensatory CR in rats tolerant to the ataxic effect of ethanol as tested on the tilting plane. Both the compensatory CR and tolerance were disrupted by the presentation of a novel strobe/noise stimulus providing converging evidence that the attenuation of tolerance by a novel stimulus results from external inhibition of Pavlovian conditioning. The disruption of ethanol tolerance and the conditional response mediating tolerance was also apparent when the novel omission of the strobe/noise stimulus was used as the external inhibitor in rats made tolerant to ethanol with the stimulus on. Finally, we have shown that the disruptive effect of a novel stimulus on ethanol tolerance is decreased when there is a 10-day delay between the final tolerance development session and testing, demonstrating that the interval between training and testing is important when assessing associative tolerance.

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