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Assessing Motivational and Associative Learning Mechanisms Underlying Compulsive Drinking
thesisposted on 01.07.2021, 13:44 by Claire CarronClaire Carron
Continued consumption of alcohol despite the knowledge of negative consequences is a hallmark of alcohol use disorder (AUD), yet much remains unknown about what motivates these behaviors. Compulsive drinking may require motivational resources that are not necessary when drinking in unchallenged conditions in order to counteract the addition of these negative consequences. Increased sensitivity to drug-paired stimuli via associative learning processes may provide this additional motivation. To evaluate if alcohol-paired stimuli enhance alcohol seeking, selectively bred crossed High Alcohol Preferring mice experienced Pavlovian conditioning procedures with an alcohol unconditioned stimulus. We hypothesized that after repeated pairings, alcohol cues would elicit seeking conditioned responses. Then, to determine if the motivation provided by these cues influenced responding, mice were trained to respond for alcohol and tested in the presence of alcohol cues. Finally, to test if alcohol-paired cues influence compulsive drinking, this same test was repeated with the addition of response-contingent footshock. We hypothesized the cue paired with alcohol would increase responding for alcohol in unchallenged conditions, but especially in challenged conditions, contributing to compulsivity. An auditory stimulus paired with alcohol did elicit enhanced seeking responses, but contrary to hypothesis, we observed no effect of these same cues on instrumental responding. To validate these findings, training and testing procedures must be optimized to ensure conditioning has properly occurred and compulsivity is being appropriately measured.