, Volume 235, Issue 4, pp 909–933 | Cite as

Alcohol, psychomotor-stimulants and behaviour: methodological considerations in preclinical models of early-life stress

  • Kate McDonnell-Dowling
  • Klaus A. Miczek



In order to assess the risk associated with early-life stress, there has been an increase in the amount of preclinical studies investigating early-life stress. There are many challenges associated with investigating early-life stress in animal models and ensuring that such models are appropriate and clinically relevant.


The purpose of this review is to highlight the methodological considerations in the design of preclinical studies investigating the effects of early-life stress on alcohol and psychomotor-stimulant intake and behaviour.


The protocols employed for exploring early-life stress were investigated and summarised. Experimental variables include animals, stress models, and endpoints employed.


The findings in this paper suggest that there is little consistency among these studies and so the interpretation of these results may not be as clinically relevant as previously thought.


The standardisation of these simple stress procedures means that results will be more comparable between studies and that results generated will give us a more robust understanding of what can and may be happening in the human and veterinary clinic.


Early-life stress Animal models Alcohol Psychomotor stimulants Behaviour 







Lister Hooded






Not specified


Postnatal day






Conditioned place preference






2 Bottle-choice




Chronic variable stress


Alko alcohol


Alko non-alcohol


Operant strategy-shifting task


Social interaction


Elevated plus maze


Open field test


Forced swim test


Light/dark box


Locomotor activity


Morris water maze


Consummatory partial reinforcement on incentive downshift effect


Attention set-shifting task


Acoustic startle response


Chronic-mild-unpredictable stress




Swim-test susceptible


Swim-test resistant


Novel object recognition


Predictable chronic mild stress


Novelty-suppressed feeding test


Roman high avoidance


Roman low avoidance


Prepulse inhibition


Sucrose/saccharin preference


Fear conditioning






Environmental enrichment


Maternal separation




Second generation


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyTufts UniversityMedfordUSA

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