Alcohol-Paired Contextual Cues Produce an Immediate and Selective Loss of Goal-directed Action in Rats

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, University of California at Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 07/2010; 4. DOI: 10.3389/fnint.2010.00019
Source: PubMed


We assessed whether the presence of contextual cues paired with alcohol would disrupt rats' capacity to express appropriate goal-directed action control. Rats were first given differential context conditioning such that one set of contextual cues was paired with the injection of ethanol and a second, distinctive set of cues was paired with the injection of saline. All rats were then trained in a third, neutral context to press one lever for grain pellets and another lever for sucrose pellets. They were then given two extinction tests to evaluate their ability to choose between the two actions in response to the devaluation of one of the two food outcomes with one test conducted in the alcohol-paired context and the other conducted in the control (saline-paired) context. In the control context, rats exhibited goal-directed action control; i.e., they were able selectively to withhold the action that previously earned the now devalued outcome. However, these same rats were impaired when tested in the alcohol-paired context, performing both actions at the same rate regardless of the current value of their respective outcomes. Subsequent testing revealed that the rats were capable of overcoming this impairment if they were giving response-contingent feedback about the current value of the food outcomes. These results provide a clear demonstration of the disruptive influence that alcohol-paired cues can exert on decision-making in general and goal-directed action selection and choice in particular.

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    • "While dopamine and glutamate signaling in the dorsolateral striatum have been directly implicated in the expression of habitual ethanol seeking (Corbit et al., 2014; Shnitko & Robinson, 2015), and while the normal functioning of these systems is likely to be altered by chronic exposure to alcohol, the precise mechanisms through which alcohol exposure impacts these signaling pathways in regions responsible for goal-directed and habitual behaviors to ultimately facilitate the acquisition and expression of habitual reward seeking, remain to be elucidated. Data suggest that ethanol exposure acts not only to alter the corticostriatal circuitry that underlies the transition from action and habit, but also that ethanol-paired cues can both promote ethanol seeking (e.g., Barker, Torregrossa, & Taylor, 2012; Corbit & Janak, 2007) and independently impair the ability to perform goal-directed behavior (Ostlund et al., 2010). With this in mind, ongoing work is exploring behavioral and pharmacological means for improving extinction of ethanol-related stimuli with the aim of reducing their impact on behavior (Leung & Corbit, in press). "
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    • "There is direct evidence that alcohol-paired environmental stimuli can promote habitual behavior. For example, Ostlund et al. (2010) found that when rats were tested in a saline-paired context they showed a significant devaluation effect. However, when the same rats with the same training history were tested in a context that had been paired with alcohol they were insensitive to outcome devaluation indicating habitual responding and demonstrating that alcohol-predictive cues can disrupt decision making. "
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