Ethanol consumption: how should we measure it? Achieving consilience between human and animal phenotypes

Addict Biol. 2010 Apr;15(2):109-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1369-1600.2009.00192.x.


There is only modest overlap in the most common alcohol consumption phenotypes measured in animal studies and those typically studied in humans. To address this issue, we identified a number of alcohol consumption phenotypes of importance to the field that have potential for consilience between human and animal models. These phenotypes can be broken down into three categories: (1) abstinence/the decision to drink or abstain; (2) the actual amount of alcohol consumed; and (3) heavy drinking. A number of suggestions for human and animal researchers are made in order to address these phenotypes and enhance consilience. Laboratory studies of the decision to drink or to abstain are needed in both human and animal research. In human laboratory studies, heavy or binge drinking that meets cut-offs used in epidemiological and clinical studies should be reported. Greater attention to patterns of drinking over time is needed in both animal and human studies. Individual differences pertaining to all consumption phenotypes should be addressed in animal research. Lastly, improved biomarkers need to be developed in future research for use with both humans and animals. Greater precision in estimating blood alcohol levels in the field, together with consistent measurement of breath/blood alcohol levels in human laboratory and animal studies, provides one means of achieving greater consilience of alcohol consumption phenotypes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / epidemiology
  • Alcoholism / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype*
  • Rats
  • Recurrence
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Species Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Temperance


  • Ethanol