Effects of moderate alcohol consumption on behavior and neural systems of Wistar rats

An Acad Bras Cienc. 2022 Jul 18;94(3):e20210673. doi: 10.1590/0001-3765202220210673. eCollection 2022.


Chronic alcohol consumption affects various neurotransmitters, especially those implicated in the transitioning to alcohol use disorders (particularly dopaminergic and CRFergic systems). Few studies have investigated moderate alcohol consumption and its harmful consequences. The objective of this work was to analyze behavioral and neurochemical (dopaminergic and CRFergic systems) alterations during chronic moderate alcohol consumption. Twelve male Wistar rats were submitted to an intermittent alcohol ingestion protocol (alcohol group) for four weeks. The control group consisted of six rats. Open Field and Elevated Plus Maze tests were used for analysis of motor and anxiety-like behaviors. Immunohistochemistry analysis was performed in dopaminergic and CRFergic systems. Animals exposed to alcohol consumed moderate doses, chronic and intermittently. Behavioral tests detected fewer fecal boli in the alcohol exposed group, and immunohistochemical analysis indicated fewer dopamine-immunoreactive cells in the ventral tegmental area, and more CRF-immunoreactive cells in the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral septum in this group. Thus we concluded that Wistar rats that consumed moderate doses of alcohol voluntarily and chronically showed a discreet anxiolytic effect in behavior, and a hypodopaminergic and hyperCRFergic neurochemical condition, which together are strong inducers of alcohol consumption predisposing to the development of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcoholism*
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Ethanol / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Ethanol