Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Investigating social housing: The effects of isolation on rodent ethanol consumption

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posted on 2024-03-24, 21:57 authored by Clare Bradley

Many animal studies investigating Alcohol Use Disorder isolate animals for weeks at a time for accuracy in measures of voluntary consumption. This practice is stressful for the animals, and may be a confound for examining other behaviours following ethanol exposure. For example, chronic isolation and ethanol consumption have been shown to affect anxiety and depression-indicating behaviours in rats, but these studies report ethanol only as affecting anxiety while housing animals individually during ethanol access. Social behaviour has also been shown to moderate ethanol consumption in rats, but this effect has not been tested during the intermittent ethanol access, only in the weeks beforehand. We therefore conducted an experiment applying the IATBCP procedure to rats that were either continuously isolated or pair-housed during ethanol-free periods, split using both male and female rats. The animals had intermittent ethanol access for eight weeks, and then were subsequently tested for anxiety and explorative behaviour using the Successive Alleys Test (SAT). Following this we conducted the Anticipatory Behaviour Paradigm (ABP) to measure the animals’ anticipation to food rewards. The isolated animals showed significantly higher ethanol consumption and preference compared to the paired animals, while the paired animals showed greater anticipation on the ABP. The female rats also consistently consumed significantly more ethanol than the males, and showed greater anticipation. We found no difference in perceived anxiety/exploration using the SAT between any of our three main conditions (housing, sex, drinker/control).

These results demonstrate that housing conditions affect both ethanol consumption and anticipatory behaviour in rats, and that paired housing during intermittent ethanol access should be considered by experimenters. Our results also stress the importance of studying both sexes in animal research and the limitations of current animal research procedures.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY 4.0

Degree Discipline

Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Science

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Ellenbroek, Bart