Psicothema was founded in Asturias (northern Spain) in 1989, and is published jointly by the Psychology Faculty of the University of Oviedo and the Psychological Association of the Principality of Asturias (Colegio Oficial de Psicólogos del Principado de Asturias).
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Alcohol seeking by rats becomes habitual after prolonged training

Matías López, Alberto Soto and Stefana Bura

Universidad de Oviedo

Background: This study examines the effect of the amount of training on alcohol seeking behavior in rats. Contemporary theories of instrumental learning suggest that habit learning processes are involved in the development of the compulsive drug seeking that characterizes addiction. Method: Wistar rats were trained to perform an instrumental response for a solution of ethanol. In Experiment 1, the rats received 2 instrumental training sessions, whereas animals in Experiment 2 received 2, 8, or 16 sessions. An aversion was then conditioned to ethanol by pairing it with LiCl, and the performance in extinction was subsequently tested. Results: Instrumental responding showed variable sensitivity to outcome devaluation as a function of the length of training. After 2 and 8 training sessions, but not after 16 sessions, drug seeking was influenced by a change in the value of ethanol. Conclusions: The results suggest that alcohol seeking is more flexible and goal-directed in early stages of training, but it becomes habitual and less governed by its consequences with more extended training.

La búsqueda de alcohol en ratas se convierte en un hábito con la práctica reforzada. Antecedentes: en este estudio se evaluó el efecto de la duración del entrenamiento instrumental sobre la conducta de búsqueda de alcohol en ratas. La investigación actual sugiere que la formación de hábitos E-R es responsable de la búsqueda compulsiva de la droga que caracteriza a las conductas adictivas. Método: se entrenó a las ratas a realizar una respuesta instrumental con etanol como recompensa. Los sujetos recibieron 2 sesiones de entrenamiento en el primer experimento y 2, 8 o 16 sesiones en el segundo estudio. Tras devaluar el etanol con LiCl se estimó la tasa de respuesta de los animales en extinción. Resultados: el efecto de la devaluación del reforzador sobre la conducta instrumental dependió del número de sesiones de entrenamiento recibidas; la tasa de respuesta disminuyó tras un entrenamiento moderado (2 y 8 sesiones) pero no se vio afectada con un entrenamiento más prolongado (16 sesiones). Conclusiones: los resultados sugieren que la búsqueda de alcohol depende del valor reforzante de la droga en la fase inicial de desarrollo de la adicción pero se vuelve rígida y automática (hábito) con la experiencia repetida.


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