Effects of Self-Administered Alcohol Concentration on the Frequency and Persistence of Rats’ Attending to Alcohol Cues

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Behavioural Pharmacology






Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins

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Observing responses produce contact with stimuli that are to be discriminated and have been considered an animal model of attending. In the observing-response procedure, alternating periods of drug availability versus extinction for one response are not signaled, but a second response (i.e. the observing response) produces stimuli signaling whether drug is available or not. This experiment examined the effects of the concentration of self-administered alcohol and increases in observing-response requirement on rats' observing alcohol stimuli. In addition, the effects of alcohol concentration on the persistence of observing were examined when alcohol was no longer available. Results showed that observing tracked bitonic changes in the number of alcohol deliveries rather than monotonic increases in total alcohol consumption resulting from increases in alcohol concentration. Increasing the observing-response requirement decreased the number of stimulus presentations earned. The resultant decreases in time spent in the presence of the alcohol stimulus were associated with decreases in alcohol consumption. During extinction of alcohol responding, observing was more persistent when it produced a stimulus previously associated with a higher alcohol concentration. Finally, responding for alcohol was more resistant to extinction in the presence of an observing-response-produced alcohol stimulus than in its absence, but did not depend on alcohol concentration. These results suggest that increases in the difficulty of obtaining access to alcohol cues can decrease alcohol consumption by reducing contact with those cues. In addition, if observing behavior in the present procedure is analogous to attending to alcohol cues, the results suggest that attending to alcohol cues is more persistent with cues previously associated with higher doses, and that the persistence of attending to alcohol cues and their impact on drinking may be dissociable.