Characterization of an alcohol addiction-prone phenotype in mice

According to the World Health Organization, alcohol is the third most important risk factors for the population health. Alcohol abuse leads some people to develop an incurable and fatal disease, alcoholism. Therefore, the aim of our research is to create animal models of alcoholism, which will help us understand the molecular basis of alcoholism. Such knowledge is essential to the future development of effective treatment of this disease.
Human studies show that impulsivity and novelty seeking, or conversely, high levels of anxiety associated with the avoidance of novelty stress, may predispose to alcohol abuse and alcoholism. It is, however, unclear whether the same features can be observed in laboratory animals, which are prone to uncontrolled alcohol drinking. To characterize these traits in mice we conducted a battery of behavioral tests in automated learning systems, IntelliCages. Next, the same mice were allowed to drink alcohol for 70 days, and after this period we assessed their behavior according to the criteria that resemble a diagnosis of alcoholism in humans. Our research has shown that, as it is observed in some alcoholics, high levels of anxiety (assessed as a reluctance to explore a new environment, low resistance to punishment and high levels of compulsive behaviors) and high impulsivity predict addiction-like alcohol drinking in mice. Our research may result in a deeper understanding of the molecular basis of alcohol dependence and may help to create new drugs that block alcohol craving.

Date of publication
17 July 2012