, Volume 105, Issue 1, pp 84-92

Assessment of ethanol's hedonic effects in mice selectively bred for sensitivity to ethanol-induced hypothermia

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Mice selectively bred for sensitivity (COLD) or insensitivity (HOT) to the hypothermic effect of ethanol were tested in three tasks purported to assess ethanol's hedonic properties: place conditioning, taste conditioning, and ethanol drinking. In the place conditioning task, distinctive tactile (floor) stimuli were differentially paired with injection of ethanol (2.25 g/kg) or saline, and preference for the tactile stimuli was assessed during a choice test without ethanol. In the taste conditioning task, fluid-deprived mice were given repeated access to saccharin followed by injection of ethanol (2.25 g/kg). In the drinking task, mice were given access on alternate days to a single drinking tube containing water or ethanol in a concentration that gradually increased from 1 to 12% (v/v) over days. HOT mice showed greater conditioned preference for ethanol-paired tactile cues, greater aversion for ethanol-paired flavor cues, and drank less ethanol at concentrations above 5% than COLD mice. HOT mice also showed higher levels of ethanol-stimulated activity than COLD mice. Control experiments indicated that the lines did not differ in initial preference for the tactile and flavor stimuli used in the conditioning tasks. Because the same line differences were seen in mice selected from two genetically independent populations, these studies offer strong evidence of genetic correlations between ethanol's thermal effect and its effect on activity, place conditioning and taste conditioning. Evidence of a genetic correlation between ethanol's thermal effect and ethanol drinking, however, is weaker since it is based on a line difference observed in only one of the genetic replicates. In general, these findings suggest commonality in the biological mechanisms underlying ethanol's thermal effect and its effect in each behavioral task. This overall pattern of genetic correlations might indicate that these tasks measure the same motivational effect of ethanol.