Intake of sweet-alcoholic drinks during adolescence is believed to favor alcohol abuse and dependence in adulthood. This study examined the influence of early exposure to ethanol with or without sucrose on the consumption of sweet or alcoholic solutions in adulthood. Adolescent rats (from post-natal day 30-46) were given continuous free access to tap water and either 5% sucrose, 5% ethanol or mixed 5% sucrose-5% ethanol. The control group was given access to water only. Upon reaching adulthood (post-natal day 60), rats were tested for saccharin (sweet), quinine (bitter) and ethanol consumption using a two-bottle free-choice paradigm. The results indicated that pre-exposure to ethanol did not alter the intake of sweet or ethanol solutions in adulthood. However, rats exposed to sucrose during adolescence showed a decreased consumption of both sweet and ethanol solutions. Because alcohol has a sweet taste component, an additional group of rats, pre-exposed to either 5% sucrose or water during adolescence, was tested for intravenous ethanol self-administration (preventing oral sensory stimulation) and in a new model of simultaneous access to oral saccharin and intravenous ethanol that results in higher total ethanol intake. Relative to controls, sucrose-exposed rats showed reduced operant self-administration of saccharin, yet no differences were found for intravenous ethanol self-administration. Altogether, these findings indicate that sucrose exposure during adolescence persistently affected the perception of sweet taste reward and thereby alcohol's acceptance in adulthood.
- Consummatory behavior
- Natural reward
- Operant intravenous self-administration
- Pharmacological reward
- Two-bottle free-choice paradigm