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Assessing the motivational effects of ethanol in mice using a discrete-trial current-intensity intracranial self-stimulation procedure



Alcohol (ethanol) produces both rewarding and aversive effects, and sensitivity to these effects is associated with risk for an alcohol use disorder (AUD). Measurement of these motivational effects in animal models is an important but challenging aspect of preclinical research into the neurobiology of AUD. Here, we evaluated whether a discrete-trial current-intensity intracranial self-stimulation (ICSS) procedure can be used to assess both reward-enhancing and aversive responses to ethanol in mice.


Male and female C57BL/6J mice were surgically implanted with bipolar stimulating electrodes targeting the medial forebrain bundle and trained on a discrete-trial current-intensity ICSS procedure. Mice were tested for changes in response thresholds after various doses of ethanol (0.5 g/kg-1.75 g/kg; n = 5-7 per dose), using a Latin square design.


A 1 g/kg dose of ethanol produced a significant reward-enhancement (i.e., lowered response thresholds), whereas a 1.75 g/kg dose produced an aversive effect (elevated response thresholds). Ethanol doses from 1 to 1.75 g/kg increased response latencies as compared to saline treatment.


The discrete-trial current-intensity ICSS procedure is an effective assay for measuring both reward-enhancing responses to ethanol as well as aversive responses in the same animal. This should prove to be a useful tool for assessing the effects of experimental manipulations on the motivational effects of ethanol in mice.

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