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State-dependent effects of ethanol on active and passive avoidance learning

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The present set of experiments examined the importance of the response initiation-inhibition parameter of certain avoidance conditioning tasks in the production of state-dependent dissociative effects with ethanol. On those tasks involving some degree of response inhibition (passive avoidance and two-way active avoidance), animals receiving ethanol during training were more impaired in their testing performance than those receiving saline during training (anterograde amnestic effect), and animals injected with ethanol during training and saline during testing displayed dissociation of their acquired avoidance behaviors during testing (asymmetrical dissociation effect). On the task involving a response initiation element with little contamination by response suppression factors (one-way active avoidance), dissociation of avoidance behavior during testing was found both for the animals trained under ethanol and tested under saline and for the animals trained under saline and tested under ethanol (symmetrical dissociation effect). The results were discussed in terms of possible joint effects of symmetrical state-dependency and other behavioral properties of the drug. However, an alternative interpretation could not be ruled out, namely that the mechanisms involved in the impairment found on the testing day for the drug-placebo and placebo-drug groups may be different. It was suggested that the drug-placebo group may represent the more general example of state-dependent dissociation effects, whereas the production of state-dependent dissociation effects in the placebo-drug group may depend upon the type of behavior conditioned and/or the strength of such conditioning.

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This investigation was supported in part by Public Health Service Grant 14702 from the National Institute of Mental Health.

The author wishes to acknowledge the careful work of his research assistant, Mr. Richard A. Wansley.

Special appreciation is given to Dr. Harold L. Williams for his critical reading of the manuscript.

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Holloway, F.A. State-dependent effects of ethanol on active and passive avoidance learning. Psychopharmacologia 25, 238–261 (1972).

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Key words

  • Dissociation
  • Ethanol
  • Avoidance Conditioning
  • Response-Initiation-Suppression