Alcohol Intake in Prairie Voles is Influenced by the Drinking Level of a Peer

Department of Behavioral Neuroscience, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA.
Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research (Impact Factor: 3.21). 05/2011; 35(10):1884-90. DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01533.x
Source: PubMed


Peer interactions can have important effects on alcohol-drinking levels, in some cases increasing use, and in other cases preventing it. In a previous study, we have established the prairie vole as a model animal for the effects of social relationships on alcohol intake and have observed a correlation of alcohol intake between individual voles housed together as pairs. Here, we investigated this correlated drinking behavior, hypothesizing that 1 animal alters its alcohol intake to match the drinking of its partner.
Adult prairie voles were tested for baseline drinking levels with continuous access to 10% alcohol and water for 4 days. In Experiment 1, high alcohol drinkers (>9 g/kg/d) were paired with low alcohol drinkers (<5 g/kg/d) of the same sex on either side of a mesh divider for 4 days with continuous access to the same 2-bottle choice test. In Experiment 2, high drinkers were paired with high drinkers and low drinkers paired with low drinkers. In both experiments, animals were again separated following pairing, and drinking was retested in isolation. In Experiment 3, alcohol-naïve animals were tested for saccharin consumption (0.05%) first in isolation and then in high saccharin drinkers paired with low saccharin drinkers, and then in another isolation period.
In Experiment 1, high drinkers paired with low drinkers significantly decreased their alcohol intake and preference from baseline drinking in isolation, and drinking levels remained significantly lower during isolation following pairing. Interestingly, there was variability between pairs in whether the high drinker decreased or the low drinker increased intake. In Experiment 2, high drinkers paired with high drinkers did not significantly change their intake level or preference, nor did low drinkers paired with low drinkers, and no changes occurred during the subsequent isolation. In Experiment 3, there was no change in saccharin intake or preference when high drinkers were paired with high drinkers or low paired with low, or in the subsequent isolation.
Alcohol drinking of prairie voles can be altered under social conditions, such that 1 animal changes its alcohol intake to more closely match the intake of the other animal, helping to explain previous findings of correlated alcohol drinking. The effect does not extend to saccharin, a naturally rewarding sweet substance. This behavior can be used to model the peer pressure that can often affect alcohol intake in humans.

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Available from: Andrey E Ryabinin, Sep 29, 2015
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    • "The effects of social interaction during drug access on intake and the development of addiction-like behaviors remain relatively unexplored. Notable exceptions are the recent studies on prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) that assessed alcohol drinking in isolated animals and pairs of voles that were housed in mesh-divided cages [23]–[25]. However, these studies still required that the animals be maintained in separate compartments to measure their alcohol intakes. "
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    ABSTRACT: Here, we describe a new model of voluntary alcohol drinking by group-housed mice. The model employs sensor-equipped cages that track the behaviors of the individual animals via implanted radio chips. After the animals were allowed intermittent access to alcohol (three 24 h intervals every week) for 4 weeks, the proportions of licks directed toward bottles containing alcohol were 50.9% and 39.6% for the male and female mice, respectively. We used three approaches (i.e., quinine adulteration, a progressive ratio schedule and a schedule involving a risk of punishment) to test for symptoms of compulsive alcohol drinking. The addition of 0.01% quinine to the alcohol solution did not significantly affect intake, but 0.03% quinine induced a greater than 5-fold reduction in the number of licks on the alcohol bottles. When the animals were required to perform increasing numbers of instrumental responses to obtain access to the bottle with alcohol (i.e., a progressive ratio schedule), they frequently reached a maximum of 21 responses irrespective of the available reward. Although the mice rarely achieved higher response criteria, the number of attempts was ∼10 times greater in case of alcohol than water. We have developed an approach for mapping social interactions among animals that is based on analysis of the sequences of entries into the cage corners. This approach allowed us to identify the mice that followed other animals in non-random fashions. Approximately half of the mice displayed at least one interaction of this type. We have not yet found a clear correlation between imitative behavior and relative alcohol preference. In conclusion, the model we describe avoids the limitations associated with testing isolated animals and reliably leads to stable alcohol drinking. Therefore, this model may be well suited to screening for the effects of genetic mutations or pharmacological treatments on alcohol-induced behaviors.
    PLoS ONE 05/2014; 9(5):e96787. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0096787 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Additionally, the ability of a social partner's presence to block the ADE is independent of the partner's drinking behavior . We have previously observed that when voles have initial access to ethanol in isolation, the presence of a social partner may actually reduce ethanol drinking (Anacker et al., 2011b). This reduction is specific to ethanol, and is not observed when animals consume sucrose, another highly rewarding fluid. "
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    ABSTRACT: There is robust evidence for a protective role of interpersonal factors such as social support on alcohol relapse, but research on the mechanisms that social factors may be acting on to effectively protect individuals against relapse is lacking. Prairie voles are highly social, monogamous rodents that freely self-administer ethanol in high amounts, and are a useful model for understanding social influences on alcohol drinking. Here we investigated whether prairie voles can be used to model social influences on relapse using the alcohol deprivation effect, in which animals show a transient increase in ethanol drinking following deprivation. In Experiment I, subjects were housed alone during four weeks of 24-h access to 10% ethanol in a two-bottle choice test. Ethanol was then removed from the cage for 72 h. Animals remained in isolation or were then housed with a familiar same-sex social partner, and ethanol access was resumed. Animals that remained isolated showed an increase in ethanol intake relative to pre-deprivation baseline, indicative of relapse-like behavior. However, animals that were socially housed did not show an increase in ethanol intake, and this was independent of whether the social partner also had access to ethanol. Experiment II replicated the alcohol deprivation effect in a separate cohort of isolated animals. These findings demonstrate that prairie voles display an alcohol deprivation effect and suggest a ‘social buffering’ effect of relapse-like behavior in the prairie vole. This behavioral paradigm provides a novel approach for investigating the behavioral and neurobiological underpinnings of social influences on alcohol relapse.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 01/2014; 39(1):152–157. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.10.006 · 4.94 Impact Factor
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    • "The plastic cage top was 17 cm high and in addition to the holes for the drinking spouts, there were holes in the lid and openings along the bottom for air circulation (Flair Plastic Products, Inc.). The cages used for pair housing were identical except that they were twice as wide, with separate lids for each half, and a wire mesh down the center that divided the cage into two equal compartments but allowed the subjects visual, olfactory, vocal, and some tactile contact, similar to what has been described by us previously (Anacker et al., 2011a,b; Hostetler et al., 2012). Wire dividers were distant from the wire racks and drinking spouts and did not interfere with lickometer data collection. "
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    ABSTRACT: Peer influences are critical in the decrease of alcohol (ethanol) abuse and maintenance of abstinence. We previously developed an animal model of inhibitory peer influences on ethanol drinking using prairie voles and here sought to understand whether this influential behavior was due to specific changes in drinking patterns and to variation in a microsatellite sequence in the regulatory region of the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (avpr1a). Adult prairie voles' drinking patterns were monitored in a lickometer apparatus that recorded each lick a subject exhibited during continuous access to water and 10% ethanol during periods of isolation, pair housing of high and low drinkers, and subsequent isolation. Analysis of fluid consumption confirmed previous results that high drinkers typically decrease ethanol intake when paired with low drinkers, but that a subset of voles do not decrease. Analysis of bout structure revealed differences in the number of ethanol drinking bouts in the subpopulations of high drinkers when paired with low drinkers. Lickometer drinking patterns analyzed by visual and by cross-correlation analyses demonstrated that pair housing did not increase the rate of subjects drinking in bouts occurring at the same time. The length of the avpr1a microsatellite did not predict susceptibility to peer influence or any other drinking behaviors. In summary, subpopulations of high drinkers were identified, by fluid intake and number of drinking bouts, which did or did not lower their ethanol intake when paired with a low drinking peer, and these subpopulations should be explored for testing the efficacy of treatments to decrease ethanol use in groups that are likely to be responsive to different types of therapy.
    Frontiers in Pharmacology 07/2013; 4:84. DOI:10.3389/fphar.2013.00084 · 3.80 Impact Factor
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