Cue-induced behavioural activation: a novel model of alcohol craving?

Pickering, Chris; Liljequist, Sture
July 2003
Psychopharmacology;2003, Vol. 168 Issue 3, p307
Academic Journal
Rationale: Alcohol-associated cues elicit craving in human addicts but little is known about craving mechanisms. Current animal models focus on relapse and this may confound the effect of environmental cues. Objectives: To develop a model to study the effects of environmental cues on alcohol consumption in animals not experiencing withdrawal or relapse. Methods: Rats were trained to orally self-administer an alcohol (5% w/ v)/saccharin (0.2%) solution 30 min a day for 20 days. After stable responding on a free choice between alcohol/ saccharin and water, rats were exposed to 5, 10 or 15 min of alcohol-associated cues or 5 min of non-alcohol associated cues. The effect of a 5-min cue was measured after a 10-day break from training or pre-treatment with 0.03, 0.1 or 1 mg/kg naltrexone. Results: Rats given 5 min of alcohol-associated cues responded significantly more on the active lever (26% increase) and consumed more alcohol as verified by increased blood alcohol levels (8.9 mM versus control 7.5 mM). Ten or 15 min of cues did not change alcohol consumption and 5 min in a novel environment decreased response by 66%. After a 10-day break in training, 5 min of alcohol-associated cues still increased alcohol consumption (29% increase) and the cue effect could be dose-dependently blocked by naltrex-one (143% decrease at 0.03 mg/kg). Conclusions: Cue-induced behavioural activation was specific to alcohol cues, reproducible, persistent and could be blocked by naltrexone, and its correlation with human self-report of craving makes it a potentially useful model for studying alcohol craving.


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