, Volume 168, Issue 1, pp 184–191

Stimulus conditioned to foot-shock stress reinstates alcohol-seeking behavior in an animal model of relapse


  • Xiu Liu
    • Department of Neuropharmacology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
    • Department of Neuropharmacology, The Scripps Research Institute, 10550 North Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA
Original Investigation

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-002-1267-z

Cite this article as:
Liu, X. & Weiss, F. Psychopharmacology (2003) 168: 184. doi:10.1007/s00213-002-1267-z



Stress and conditioned responses to drug cues have been implicated as critical factors in relapse to drug use. In the animal literature, both the conditioned effects of drug-related stimuli and the unconditioned effects of foot-shock stress have been well documented to reinstate extinguished drug-seeking behavior. What has remained largely unexplored, however, is the significance of stimuli conditioned to foot-shock stress for the resumption of drug seeking. Additionally, although relapse is often the result of several risk factors acting in combination, the possibility that interactions among risk factors such as conditioned stress and drug cues may intensify drug-seeking behavior has received little experimental attention.


The purpose of this study was to examine the individual and interactive effects of a stimulus conditioned to foot-shock stress (STRESS CS) and a stimulus conditioned to ethanol reward (EtOH CS) on the reinstatement of ethanol-seeking behavior following extinction.


Male Wistar rats were trained to orally self-administer 10% ethanol on a fixed-ratio 3 schedule of reinforcement. The EtOH CS was established by response-contingently pairing 0.5 s illumination of a white cue light with each reinforced response. The STRESS CS was established by pairing a continuous white noise (70 dB) with intermittent foot shock (10 min; 0.5 mA; 0.5 s on; mean off period of 40 s). Ethanol dependence was induced by an ethanol vapor-inhalation procedure. After ethanol-maintained instrumental responding was extinguished by withholding ethanol and the EtOH CS, reinstatement tests were conducted.


Both exposure to the STRESS CS and response-contingent presentation of the EtOH CS reinstated extinguished responding at the previously active, ethanol-paired lever without further ethanol availability. When response-contingent availability of the EtOH CS was preceded by exposure to the STRESS CS, interactive effects of these stimuli on responding were observed. However, both the individual and interactive effects of the STRESS CS and the EtOH CS reached statistical significance only in rats with a history of ethanol dependence but not in ethanol-nondependent rats.


The results confirm that both conditioned stress and ethanol cues elicit ethanol-seeking behavior and, more importantly, that these stimuli produce interactive effects resulting in an increased ethanol-seeking response. The findings also indicate that susceptibility to ethanol seeking induced by conditioned stress and alcohol cues depends significantly on the history of prior alcohol exposure.


EthanolDependenceSelf-administrationReinstatementStressConditioned stimulus

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag  2003