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Saturday, May 5, 2012

The interaction of chronic restraint stress and voluntary alcohol intake: Effects on spatial memory in male rats

Alcohol consumption and exposure to stressful life events activate similar neural pathways and thus result in several comparable physiological and behavioral effects. Alcoholics in treatment claim that life stressors are the leading cause of continued drinking or relapse. However, few studies have investigated the interactive effects of stress and alcohol on cognitive behavior.

The effects of restraint stress, alcohol, and stress in combination with alcohol were examined on a spatial memory test, the object placement (OP) task. In addition, intake levels were measured to determine if stress altered general consumption of alcohol. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were assigned to one of four conditions: no alcohol/no stress control (CON), stress alone (STR), alcohol alone (ALC), and STR
+alcohol (STR+ALC). Following each restraint stress bout, the STR+ALC and the ALC groups were given access to 8% alcohol for 1h using the two-bottle choice limited access paradigm.

As predicted, the STR
+ALC group significantly increased alcohol consumption, while the ALC group had consistent drinking over the 10-day treatment. On the OP task, STR and ALC groups performed at chance levels, whereas the CON and STR+ALC groups significantly discriminated between objects in the new and old locations.

These data show that stress increases alcohol intake and the intake of alcohol is associated with reduction of the stress-induced impairment of spatial memory. The data have important implications for the development of alcohol abuse and its treatment.

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