Background: Heavy alcohol drinking has aspects of inflexible behavior. This study addressed the consequences of chronic alcohol drinking on cognitive and sensory-motor domains of behavioral flexibility in rhesus monkeys.
Methods: Behavioral flexibility was assessed in 12 monkeys (n = 9, ethanol [EtOH] drinkers) with a set-shifting visual discrimination procedure before alcohol self-administration and while maintaining consumption of 1.5 g/kg/d EtOH. Task performance was assessed in the morning after ~18 hours of drinking 1.5 g/kg, and 1 hour before the next day's drinking session began. The first 10 set-shifting sessions had the original (preethanol) test parameters and were used to determine retention of preethanol performance. Then, an effect of sensory-motor challenge (60% reduction in the size of the discriminative stimuli) on performance was assessed during 10 additional sessions.
Results: There were no average group-dependent differences in the performance between control and EtOH groups at the preethanol time-point. The daily consumption of 1.5 g/kg/d produced binge alcohol intakes in 7 of 9 monkeys (blood EtOH concentration [BEC ≥ 80 mg/dl]). Chronic daily intakes of 1.5 g/kg had no effect on retention of the task in the sober state. However, when challenged with a reduction in the size of the stimuli, daily 1.5 g/kg EtOH resulted in a decrement in performance due to an increase in the number of errors.
Conclusions: Rhesus monkeys consuming 1.5 g/kg alcohol daily perform equally as could as control monkeys in retention of a well-learned cognitive task. However, this pattern of daily alcohol intake robustly decreased the ability to flexibly adjust behavior when confronted with novel changes to perceptual stimuli.
Keywords: Alcohol Abuse; Late Adolescence; Rhesus Macaques; Set Shifting.
© 2020 by the Research Society on Alcoholism.