Social Interaction and Partner Familiarity Differentially Alter Voluntary Ethanol Intake in Adolescent Male and Female Rats

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Adolescence, Voluntary alcohol intake, Social interaction, Demonstrator–observer paradigm

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Alcohol readily facilitates social interactions and this effect plays an important role in adolescent drinking behaviors. The ability of social interaction to alter behaviors in response to alcohol in adolescent animals has been assessed using the demonstrator–observer paradigm. The demonstrator is exposed to ethanol and the observer is tested for changes in behaviors in response to ethanol after social interaction between the dyad. The present experiment expanded on previous work to investigate the effects of different types of social interaction on subsequent voluntary ethanol consumption in adolescent male and female rats. Specifically, voluntary ethanol intake was assessed in adolescent observers after social interaction with an alcohol-free or -intoxicated same-sex familiar cage-mate or an age-matched unfamiliar conspecific. Demonstrators were intragastrically administered water or 1.5 g/kg ethanol and allowed to socially interact with observers for 30 min after a 1-h social isolation period. Subsequently, observers were allowed voluntary access to ethanol using a two-bottle choice paradigm overnight for 13 h. Male and female observers that interacted with an alcohol-intoxicated familiar cagemate consumed significantly more ethanol relative to their alcohol-free counterparts. However, adolescent male observers that socially interacted with an alcohol-intoxicated, age-matched unfamiliar conspecific consumed significantly less ethanol than controls. The opposite effect was observed in adolescent female observers. The present results are consistent and extend previous work in support of the idea that exposure to the demonstrator–observer paradigm alters voluntary ethanol intake in a sex- and familiarity-dependent manner. Partner familiarity can induce elevated or reduced ethanol consumption in males. However, females appear to be more sensitive to the elevating effects of social interaction on voluntary ethanol consumption, regardless of familiarity of the partner.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Alcohol, v. 42, issue 8, p. 641-648