Flavor preference conditioning by oval self administration of ethanol

Christopher L. Cunningham, Jill S. Niehus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Oral self-administration and operant tasks have been used successfully to confirm ethanol's positive reinforcing effects in rats. However, in flavor conditioning tasks, ethanol is typically found to have aversive effects. The present studies explored this apparent paradox by examining the change in value of a flavor paired with orally self-administered ethanol in two different limited-access procedures. Rats were food-deprived and trained to drink (experiment 1) or to barpress for (experiment 2) 10% (v/v) ethanol during daily 30-min sessions using prandial initiation techniques. All rats were then exposed to a differential flavor conditioning procedure in which banana or almond extract was added to the drinking solution, One flavor (counterbalanced) was always mixed with ethanol (CS+), whereas the other flavor was mixed with water (CS-). By the end of conditioning, rats in both experiments drank more flavored ethanol than flavored water, confirming ethanol's efficacy as a reinforcer. Moreover, barpress rates for CS+ exceeded those for CS- in the operant task. Ethanol doses self-administered in final sessions averaged about 1 g/kg. The effect of the flavor-ethanol contingency was assessed in preference tests that offered a choice between the two flavor solutions without ethanol. In both experiments, subjects developed a preference for the flavor that had been paired with ethanol. Thus, the outcome of flavor conditioning was consistent with that of the oral self-administration tasks in providing evidence of ethanol's rewarding effects. These experiments confirm and extend previous studies showing that flavor aversion is not the inevitable result of flavor-ethanol association in rats. It seems likely that ethanol's nutrient and pharmacological effects both contributed to the development of conditioned flavor preference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-302
Number of pages10
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Body temperature
  • Conditioned taste preference
  • Ethanol
  • Operant conditioning
  • Rats
  • Reinforcement
  • Reward
  • Self-administration
  • Taste conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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