Acoustic startle in alcohol-naïve male rats predicts subsequent voluntary alcohol intake and alcohol preference

Alcohol Alcohol. 2015 Jan;50(1):56-61. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agu065. Epub 2014 Oct 10.


Aims: Acoustic startle response in rats is used to model sensorimotor reactivity. The aim of the study was to determine whether acoustic startle response in alcohol-naïve rats predicts subsequent increased voluntary alcohol drinking or alcohol preference.

Methods: Startle responses to 90, 95 and 100 decibel (dB) white noise stimuli presented in counterbalanced semi-randomized order were tested in alcohol-naïve young adult male Wistar rats before voluntary alcohol intake was established with an intermittent alcohol access (IAA) model.

Results: Startle amplitude in response to 95 or 100 dB stimuli was positively correlated with subsequent alcohol intake and alcohol preference following 3 months of IAA. Rats with high (median split) pre-IAA startle amplitude in response to 95 or 100 dB stimuli developed increased alcohol intake as well as increased alcohol preference following 3 months of IAA, relative to rats with low pre-IAA startle amplitude.

Conclusion: Startle response to moderate acoustic stimuli can be a predictive index of vulnerability to developing increased alcohol drinking.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology*
  • Animals
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reflex, Startle / physiology*