, Volume 231, Issue 8, pp 1831-1839

Effect of sex on ethanol consumption and conditioned taste aversion in adolescent and adult rats

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Abstract

Rationale

Vulnerability to alcoholism is determined by many factors, including the balance of pleasurable vs. aversive alcohol-induced sensations: pleasurable sensations increase intake, while aversive sensations decrease it. Female sex and adolescent age are associated with lower sensitivity to intake-reducing effects and more rapid development of alcohol abuse.

Objectives

This study assessed voluntary drinking and the aversive effects of alcohol to determine whether these measures are inversely related across the sexes and development.

Methods

Voluntary drinking of 20 % ethanol in an every-other-day (EOD) availability pattern and the dose–response relationship of ethanol conditioned taste aversion (CTA) were assessed in male and female adolescent and adult rats.

Results

CTA was sex specific in adult but not adolescent rats, with adult females exhibiting less aversion. Voluntary ethanol consumption varied according to age and individual differences but was not sex specific. Adolescents initially drank more than adults, exhibited greater day-to-day variation in consumption, were more susceptible to the alcohol deprivation effect, and took longer to establish individual differences in consumption patterns.

Conclusions

These results show that the emergence of intake patterns differs between adolescents and adults. Adolescents as a group initiate drinking at high levels but decrease intake as they mature. A subset of adolescents maintained high drinking levels into adulthood. In contrast, most adults consumed at steady, low levels, but a small subset quickly established and maintained high-consumption patterns. Adolescents also showed marked deprivation-induced increases. Sex differences were not observed in EOD drinking during either adolescence or adulthood.