• Cunningham, Christopher (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Recent theories of the etiology of alcoholism suggest that craving and
relapse are linked to a Pavlovian process whereby the drinker learns to
associate environmental cues with alcohol's effects. If the individual
returns to an environment where alcohol is expected but not given, he may
experience an adverse conditioned physiological reaction similar to
withdrawal which prompts renewed drinking. Pavlovian conditioned responses
have also recently been shown to be involved in the growth of tolerance to
some effects of alcohol. No study, however, has yet shown a direct link
between conditioned drug responses and self-administration. Using an
animal (rat) model for oral self-administration of alcohol, we propose
several studies to examine the role of Pavlovian conditioning in
self-administration. Initially, we will determine whether the environment
associated with self-administration of alcohol becomes capable of eliciting
a Pavlovian thermal conditioned response and, if so, whether that response
contributes to the development of tolerance to alcohol's thermal effect.
Then we will assess the effect of an explicit Pavlovian CS for alcohol
(i.e., a stimulus previously paired with alcohol injection) on rate of
responding in the self-administration paradigm. Finally, we will also
determine the subject's preference/aversion for that stimulus using a
locomotor choice procedure. The results of these studies will permit us to
evaluate suggestions that Pavlovian conditioned responses play a critical
role in the development, maintenance and relapse of alcohol
self-administration and in the development of drug tolerance. The
long-term objective of this research is to increase our understanding of
the biobehavioral processes that contribute to the etiology of alcohol
abuse and dependence. This understanding should help us to recognize
increased risk of alcohol abuse, to devise more efficient and effective
treatments for alcoholism and to outline more effective prevention
Effective start/end date7/1/8412/31/87


  • National Institutes of Health


  • Medicine(all)


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