Effects of Alcohol Consumption on Pair Bond Maintenance and Potential Neural Substrates in Female Prairie Voles

Andre T. Walcott, Andrey E. Ryabinin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Aims: Discordant heavy alcohol use is a risk factor for disruption of intimate partner relationships. Modeling these relationships in prairie voles indicates that biological effects of alcohol can contribute to this risk. In particular, alcohol consumption disrupted an established preference for a female partner in male prairie voles if the partner was drinking water, but not if the partner was drinking alcohol. The current study investigated the effects of alcohol consumption on pair bonds in female prairie voles. Methods: Female and male prairie voles established pair bonds during 1 week of cohabitation. Following cohabitation, females and their partners were put into mesh-divided cages where they were given access to 10% ethanol and water or only water for 1 week. Pair bonds in female prairie voles were tested using the partner preference test (PPT). Following the PPT, we examined oxytocin, vasopressin and FosB immunoreactivity across several brain regions. Results: Female prairie voles consumed more alcohol if their male partner was also drinking alcohol, but not if their partner was drinking water. During PPT, females preferred their partner over a stranger, regardless of their partner's drinking status. Alcohol consumption decreased oxytocin immunoreactivity in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus and increased FosB immunoreactivity in the centrally projecting Edinger-Westphal nucleus. Conclusions: Established partner preference in female prairie voles is resistant to alcohol consumption. This finding suggests that the risk for disruption of intimate partner relationships in females is not mediated by a decreased motivation to be with their partners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)353-360
Number of pages8
JournalAlcohol and Alcoholism
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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