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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Prenatal ethanol exposure leads to greater ethanol-induced appetitive reinforcement

Prenatal ethanol significantly heightens later alcohol consumption, but the mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon are poorly understood. Little is known about the basis of ‘this effect of prenatal ethanol on the sensitivity to ethanol’s reinforcing effects. One possibility is that prenatal ethanol exposure makes subjects more sensitive to the appetitive effects of ethanol or less sensitive to ethanol’s aversive consequences.

The present study assessed ethanol-induced second-order conditioned place preference (CPP) and aversion and ethanol-induced conditioned taste aversion (CTA) in infant rats prenatally exposed to ethanol (2.0
g/kg) or vehicle (water) or left untreated. The involvement of the κ opioid receptor system in ethanol-induced CTA was also explored.

When place conditioning occurred during the ascending limb of the blood–ethanol curve (Experiment 1), the pups exposed to ethanol
in utero exhibited greater CPP than untreated controls, with a shift to the right of the dose–response curve. Conditioning during a later phase of intoxication (30–45min post-administration; Experiment 2) resulted in place aversion in control pups exposed to vehicle during late gestation but not in pups that were exposed to ethanol in utero. Ethanol induced a reliable and similar CTA (Experiment 3) in the pups treated with vehicle or ethanol during gestation, and CTA was insensitive to κ antagonism.

These results suggest that brief exposure to a moderate ethanol dose during late gestation promotes ethanol-mediated reinforcement and alters the expression of conditioned aversion by ethanol.

This shift in the motivational reactivity to ethanol may be an underlying basis of the effect of prenatal ethanol on later ethanol acceptance.

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