Differential effects of alcohol consumption and withdrawal on circadian temperature and activity rhythms in Sprague-Dawley, Lewis, and Fischer male and female rats

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Mar;30(3):438-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00048.x.


Background: Hypothalamic synthesis and secretion of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a putative mediator of various behavioral and physiological responses to ethanol (EtOH), is defective in inbred Lewis (LEW) rats in comparison with their genetically related inbred Fischer 344 (F344) and outbred Sprague-Dawley (S-D) strains. We aimed to characterize the effects of continuous EtOH consumption and withdrawal on circadian patterns of body temperature and spontaneous locomotor activity in males and females of these 3 strains.

Methods: Adult LEW, F344, and S-D males and randomly cycling females were fed an EtOH-containing liquid diet or the control (pair-fed or lab chow and water) diet for 14 days. Biotelemetric body temperature data for the last 3 days of EtOH diet feeding and the first 3 days of withdrawal were subjected to cosinor analysis of the circadian rhythm parameters of midline-estimating statistic of rhythm (MESOR), amplitude, and acrophase. Mean dark-phase activity during these periods was also computed.

Results: In the control diet condition, the MESORs and amplitudes of LEW males were lower than those of F344 males. MESORs of rhythms of LEW females were lower than those of both F344 and S-D females. Ethanol consumption caused hypothermia with reduced MESORs and amplitudes of LEW and F344 males and amplitudes of F344 and S-D females. Upon withdrawal, MESORs of the males increased during each day as the amplitudes decreased, reflective of their initial withdrawal-induced dark-phase hypothermia, which was most pronounced in the LEW males, followed by light-phase hyperthermia. MESORs of females were not affected by withdrawal; their amplitudes were differentially affected. Acrophase of LEW males shifted from dark to light on the first day of withdrawal. All rats responded to EtOH exposure with a reduction of dark-phase spontaneous locomotor activity and an immediate increase upon withdrawal.

Conclusions: Body temperature rhythms of the males were generally more affected by EtOH consumption and withdrawal than the females; within each sex, LEW and F344 rats differed significantly. The specific hormonal factors that mediate the differential temperature responses remain to be defined.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Temperature / drug effects*
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / adverse effects
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Circadian Rhythm / drug effects*
  • Ethanol / adverse effects
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Rats, Inbred Lew
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Species Specificity
  • Substance Withdrawal Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Telemetry


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol