Assessing effects of oxytocin on alcohol consumption in socially housed prairie voles using radio frequency tracking

Andre T. Walcott, Andrey E. Ryabinin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Alcohol use disorder affects millions of people each year. Currently approved pharmacotherapies have limited success in treating this disorder. Evidence suggests that this lack of success is partly due to how these pharmacotherapies are tested in preclinical settings. The vast majority of preclinical studies assessing the effects of pharmacotherapies on alcohol or drug self-administration are done in individually housed animals. However, it is known that alcohol and drug intake are heavily influenced by social settings. Here, we adapted radio frequency tracking technology to determine the effects of oxytocin, a potential therapy for alcohol use disorder, on alcohol consumption in socially housed male and female prairie voles. Voluntary alcohol consumption in these animals resulted in high daily alcohol intakes, blood ethanol concentrations that are considered intoxicating, and central changes in FosB immunoreactivity, indicative of changes in neural activity. Prairie voles that received oxytocin temporarily reduced alcohol consumption but not alcohol preference, compared with control prairie voles regardless whether their cagemates received a similar treatment or not. Our results demonstrate that oxytocin can decrease consummatory behaviors in the presence of peers that are not receiving this treatment, and therefore, its potential use in clinical trials is warranted. Moreover, effectiveness of other pharmacotherapies in preclinical studies can be tested in mixed-treatment socially housed animals similarly to clinical studies in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12893
JournalAddiction Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Edinger-Westphal nucleus
  • Microtus ochrogaster
  • alcohol use disorder
  • alcoholism
  • oxytocin
  • social environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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