Face validity of a pre-clinical model of operant binge drinking: just a question of speed

Addict Biol. 2019 Jul;24(4):664-675. doi: 10.1111/adb.12631. Epub 2018 Jun 4.


Binge drinking (BD) is often defined as a large amount of alcohol consumed in a 'short' period of time or 'per occasion'. In clinical research, few researchers have included the notion of 'speed of drinking' in the definition of BD. Here, we aimed to describe a novel pre-clinical model based on voluntary operant BD, which included both the quantity of alcohol and the rapidity of consumption. In adult Long-Evans male rats, we induced BD by regularly decreasing the duration of ethanol self-administration from 1-hour to 15-minute sessions. We compared the behavioral consequences of BD with the behaviors of rats subjected to moderate drinking or heavy drinking (HD). We found that, despite high ethanol consumption levels (1.2 g/kg/15 minutes), the total amounts consumed were insufficient to differentiate HD from BD. However, consumption speed could distinguish between these groups. The motivation to consume was higher in BD than in HD rats. After BD, we observed alterations in locomotor coordination in rats that consumed greater than 0.8 g/kg, which was rarely observed in HD rats. Finally, chronic BD led to worse performance in a decision-making task, and as expected, we observed a lower stimulated dopaminergic release within nucleus accumbens slices in poor decision makers. Our BD model exhibited good face validity and can now provide animals voluntarily consuming very rapidly enough alcohol to achieve intoxication levels and thus allowing the study of the complex interaction between individual and environmental factors underlying BD behavior.

Keywords: animal model; binge drinking; decision making; fast cyclic voltammetry; operant self-administration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Binge Drinking*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology
  • Conditioning, Operant
  • Decision Making / drug effects
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Dopamine / metabolism
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Locomotion / drug effects
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Nucleus Accumbens / drug effects
  • Nucleus Accumbens / metabolism
  • Rats*
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self Administration
  • Time Factors


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol
  • Dopamine