Rodent Models of Genetic Contributions to Motivation to Abuse Alcohol

  • John C. Crabbe
Part of the Nebraska Symposium on Motivation book series (NSM, volume 61)


The distinction between alcohol use (normative) and abuse (unfortunately common) implies dysregulation of motivation directed toward the drug. Genetic contributions to abuse risk are mediated through personality differences, other predispositions to drink excessively, and differences in sensitivity to the acute and chronic consequences of the drug. How to assess motivation in laboratory animals is not straightforward, but risk factors for and consequences of alcohol abuse can be modeled with reasonable fidelity in laboratory rodents. Remarkably, few rodent studies focus on the genetic contributions to alcohol’s reinforcing value: Almost all examine preferential drinking of unflavored alcohol over water. Such studies will likely never avoid the confounding role of taste preferences and most often yield intake levels insufficient to yield a pharmacologically significant blood alcohol level. Genotypes that avoid alcohol probably do so based on preingestive sensory cues; however, postingestive consequences are also important. Thus, the quest for improved measures of reinforcing value continues. We have genetic differences aplenty, but still lack evidence that any genotype will readily self-administer alcohol to the devastating extent that many alcoholics will. Encouraging results that are emerging include improved behavioral methods for elevating alcohol intake and inferring alcohol reinforcement, as well as new genetic animal models. Several ingenious assays to index alcohol’s motivational effects have been used extensively. Alcoholic drinking that attempts to prevent or to alleviate withdrawal symptoms has been modeled. Another characteristic of alcoholic drinking is its persistence despite abundant evidence to the drinker of the damaging effects of the excessive drinking on work, relationships, and/or health. Modeling such persistence in rodents has been uncommon to date. New genetic animal models include lines of mice selectively bred for chronic high drinking and others bred for high binge-like drinking. We have a much more clear idea now about some important experiments remaining to be performed.


Quantitative Trait Locus Conditioned Place Preference Inbred Strain Taste Aversion Progressive Ratio Schedule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Preparation of this chapter was supported by the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (Grants AA10760, AA13519, AA20245), and the US Department of the Army/DoD-TATRC Grant 10235005.05. I thank Chris Cunningham for his comments on a draft of this chapter.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Portland Alcohol Research Center, Department of Behavioral NeuroscienceOregon Health & Science UniversityPortlandUSA
  2. 2.VA Medical Center (R&D 12)PortlandUSA

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