Heart rate and motor-activating effects of orally self-administered ethanol in alcohol-preferring (P) rats

Journal Article

Background: Autonomic and behavioral arousals often accompany reinforcement. Additionally, contextual cues associated with alcohol consumption elicit increases in heart rate in alcoholics. This study examined changes in heart rate (HR) and motor activity before and during limited-access to ethanol, saccharin, or water in adult male alcohol-preferring (P) rats. Methods: Adult male P rats were implanted with radiotelemetric transmitters to measure HR and motor activity. The experiment involved placing the animals in a test chamber for a 90-min pretest period, with water available. Thereafter, the animals were given a 90-min test session with access to one of three test solutions: water, 0.0125% saccharin, or 15% (v/v) ethanol (EtOH). After a week of habituation (water served as the test solution for all three groups), the animals were given their respective test solution for 3 weeks. Results: Analyses of HR revealed that the saccharin and EtOH groups had significantly higher HR than the water group during the pretest period of the third test week. Both the saccharin and EtOH groups had significantly higher HR than the water group during the test period of all three test weeks. Analyses of motor activity revealed that the EtOH group displayed higher motor activity than the water and saccharin groups during the pretest period of the third test week. Conclusions: The data indicate that oral self-administration of EtOH enhances behavioral and autonomic activation, compared with saccharin or water, in adult male P rats and support previous observations that changes in HR can be used as an index of reinforcement. Additionally, it seems that the behavioral and autonomic activation elicited by EtOH self-administration can be conditioned to the environment in which EtOH was self-administered. These findings parallel reports on cued reactivity (behavioral and autonomic activation) in alcoholics exposed to alcohol-associated stimuli.

Cited Authors

  • Bell, RL; Rodd-Henricks, ZA; Webster, AA; Lumeng, L; Li, TK; McBride, WJ; Murphy, JM

Published Date

  • 2002

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 26 / 8

Start / End Page

  • 1162 - 1170

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0145-6008