Reestablishing an intragastric ethanol self-infusion model in rats

Tara L. Fidler, Tara W. Clews, Christopher L. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: There is a scarcity of behavioral models that will reliably produce ethanol intakes in rodents at levels that induce or maintain dependence. The present experiments were designed to reestablish a model that uses passive intragastric (IG) infusion of ethanol to induce tolerance/dependence/withdrawal before allowing rats to self-infuse ethanol intragastrically. Methods: Sprague-Dawley rats were surgically implanted with IG catheters and allowed to recover. During the passive infusion phase (3-6 days), rats in the experimental group were passively infused with 10% (v/v) ethanol (3.3-12.2 g/kg/d). Rats in the control group were not infused. During the self-infusion phase (5-6 days), all rats had access to 2 flavored solutions. Licks on 1 solution were paired with ethanol infusions (20%, v/v) whereas licks on the other solution were unpaired. Experiments differed in the specific passive infusion parameters and in the ethanol intake limit during self-infusion. Results: Rats in the experimental groups self-infused more ethanol per day (means of 4-7 g/kg/d) than did rats in the control group (means of 0-2.6 g/kg/d). Across all 3 studies, individual total daily intakes exceeded 5 g/kg on 35% of the self-infusion days in ethanol-preexposed rats compared with <1% of the self-infusion days in the control rats. Ethanol-exposed rats also infused a substantially higher percentage (42%) of their total ethanol intake in relatively large bouts (>1.5 g/kg) compared with control rats (<10%). The addition of a daily 6-hour ethanol-free period during the passive infusion phase (in Experiments 2 and 3) led to higher ethanol intakes than in Experiment 1. Results of a control experiment showed that differences between experimental and control groups in Experiments 1 to 3 were a result of ethanol experience and not a general effect of differential infusion experience. Conclusions: Relatively short periods of passive IG infusion of ethanol induced levels of ethanol self-infusion in genetically heterogeneous rats that were comparable with drinking intakes previously reported in rats selectively bred for ethanol intake/preference. Although the induction of dependence/withdrawal may have played a role in this outcome, an alternative interpretation is that experimental rats self-infused more ethanol because passive exposure produced tolerance to aversive pharmacological effects that would otherwise limit intake of the paired flavor because of development of conditioned taste aversion. The current findings provide a strong basis for future work designed to identify parametric determinants of this form of self-administration, its sensitivity to genetic influences, and its neurobiological substrates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-428
Number of pages15
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2006


  • Dependence
  • Intragastric Route
  • Rats
  • Self-administration
  • Tolerance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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