Subgroup-dependent effects of voluntary alcohol intake on behavioral profiles in outbred Wistar rats

Behav Brain Res. 2014 Dec 15:275:288-96. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2014.08.058. Epub 2014 Sep 6.


Experimental animal models are critical for understanding the genetic, environmental and neurobiological underpinnings of alcohol use disorders. Limited studies investigate alcohol-induced effects on behavior using free-choice paradigms. The aims of the present experiment were to study voluntary alcohol intake using a modified intermittent access paradigm, investigate the effects of voluntary alcohol intake on behavioral profiles in water- and alcohol-drinking rats, and select extreme low- and high-drinking animals for a more detailed behavioral characterization. Sixty outbred male Wistar rats were randomized into water and alcohol groups. Behavioral profiles in the multivariate concentric square field™ (MCSF) test were assessed prior to and after voluntary alcohol intake. The animals had intermittent access to 20% alcohol and water for three consecutive days per week for seven weeks. The results revealed increased alcohol intake over time. No major alcohol-induced differences on behavior profiles were found when comparing water- and alcohol-drinking animals. The high-drinking animals displayed an alcohol deprivation effect, which was not found in the low-drinking animals. High-drinking rats had lower risk-taking behavior prior to alcohol access and lower anxiety-like behavior after voluntary alcohol intake compared to low-drinking rats. In conclusion, the modified intermittent access paradigm may be useful for pharmacological manipulation of alcohol intake. With regard to behavior, the present findings highlights the importance of studying subgroup-dependent differences and add to the complexity of individual differences in behavioral traits of relevance to the vulnerability for excessive alcohol intake.

Keywords: Alcohol; Alcohol deprivation effect; Anxiety; Individual difference; Intermittent access; Multivariate concentric square field (MCSF).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Drinking
  • Drinking Behavior
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Food Preferences
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Factors


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol