Stress-Induced Alcohol Preferences: A Novel Test in Selectively Bred Rats

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Publication Date

Summer 2012


This summer research is a novel test that examines stress-induced alcohol preferences in selectively bred high versus low saccharin-consuming rats. Susceptibility to alcohol abuse is dependent on various environmental and biological factors. Many studies have hypothesized that stress is one cause of alcohol abuse. In laboratory models, then, stress might be expected to increase alcohol intake. However, there have been contradictory results. Findings show that depending on the stressor and its severity, stress can either decrease or increase alcohol intake. The variety of results of stress effects in alcohol motivated behavior suggests that the answer to this phenomenon is not simple. Multiple variables influence the alcohol preferences, some of which increase and some of which decrease alcohol motivation. The present study used two acute stressors, footshocks and food deprivation, to determine whether acute stress would increase alcohol preference in high (HiS) and low (LoS) saccharin-consuming male rats. Rats selectively bred on this taste phenotype show different behaviors in emotionality, preference for alcohol and alcohol-paired flavors, and susceptibility to stress. The rats were conditioned with plain and 4% ethanol Kool-Aid solutions for ten days before being given two stress tests. Stressed rats should show behavioral shifts in drinking. Therefore, we expected that both lines would have greater preferences for the alcohol-paired flavor after stress; we also expected that LoS rats would show a greater increase in alcohol preferences after stress. However, stressed rats did not show a significant increase in the alcohol-paired flavor compared to the control group after both stress tests. These results indicate that acute stress is not effective at modifying expression of flavor preferences in HiS and LoS rats, at least under the test conditions utilize

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.


Nancy Dess




Howard Hughes Medical Institute Undergraduate Science Education Grant

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