Alterations in the seeking and self-administration of ethanol and anxiety-like behavior following exposure to yohimbine in rats selectively bred for high alcohol intake

Megan Lee Bertholomey, Purdue University


Stress has been shown to contribute to alcohol drinking; however, inconsistencies in both the clinical and pre-clinical literature speak to the need for better paradigms to study this interaction. The present experiments compared animal models of the propensity to consume ethanol, the selectively bred alcohol-preferring (P) and high-alcohol-drinking (HAD) rat lines, in their response to yohimbine on ethanol seeking and self-administration and anxiety-like behavior. The P and HAD lines consume similar amounts of ethanol, yet differ in apparent motivation to drink ethanol, in anxiety-like behavior, and response to stress in alcohol drinking. Therefore, it was of interest to determine whether stress may differentially affect ethanol-motivated behaviors between the P and HAD lines. Acute administration of yohimbine, an &agr;-2 adrenoreceptor antagonist that increases anxiety and activate stress systems, increased operant ethanol self-administration and reinstatement of ethanol seeking in P rats, and free-choice ethanol drinking in both P and HAD rats. However, acute yohimbine administration decreased ethanol drinking when given limited access in the home cage, an effect that was diminished by extending the pre-treatment interval or increasing the number of ethanol exposure sessions. Yohimbine did not alter appetitive responding during a non-reinforced trial, nor did yohimbine alter the acquisition of free-choice ethanol drinking. Exposure to alcohol deprivation resulted in modest increases in ethanol intake, but yohimbine did not potentiate this effect. While acute yohimbine administration increased anxiety-like behavior, prior experience with repeated yohimbine exposures or with repeated deprivation periods did not. P rats were shown to be more active and less anxious and to display greater responding during a non-reinforced trial than HAD rats. Taken together, the results of these experiments demonstrate that the timing of yohimbine exposure relative to ethanol access is a critical component to determining its effects on ethanol seeking and self-administration and anxiety-like behavior. Further investigation into the parameters under which stress alters the motivation to seek and consume ethanol between these selectively bred lines is warranted, and future work that incorporates therapeutic agents aimed at reducing stress reactivity and alcohol drinking could elucidate effective strategies in the treatment of alcoholism.




Grahame, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Psychobiology|Behavioral psychology|Clinical psychology

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