Nest building is a novel method for indexing severity of alcohol withdrawal in mice

G. D. Greenberg, L. C. Huang, S. E. Spence, J. P. Schlumbohm, P. Metten, A. R. Ozburn, J. C. Crabbe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Withdrawal after chronic ethanol (EtOH) affects body temperature, goal-directed behavior and motor function in mice and increases general central nervous system excitability. Nest-building tests have been used to assay these states but to this point have not been employed as measures of EtOH withdrawal severity. We first refined nest-scoring methods using a genetically heterogeneous stock of mice (HS/Npt). Mice were then made physically dependent following three days of chronic EtOH vapor inhalation to produce average blood EtOH concentrations (BECs) of 1.89 mg/mL. EtOH withdrawal affected the progression of nest building over time when mice were tested 2-4 days after removal from three days of chronic exposure to EtOH. In a separate group of mice, chronic EtOH vapor inhalation (BECs 1.84 mg/mL) suppressed nest building over days 1-2 but not days 2-3 of withdrawal. In a following experiment, EtOH withdrawal dose-dependently slowed recovery of nest building for up to 32 h. Finally, we determined that long-lasting nest-building deficits extend to mice undergoing withdrawal from a high dose (4 g/kg) of acute EtOH. Sex differences for nest building were absent following EtOH exposure. In mice naïve to EtOH treatments, male mice had lower pre-test body temperatures and increased nest scores across a two-day testing period compared to females. These results suggest that nest building can be used to assess chronic and acute EtOH withdrawal severity in mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-190
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016


  • Acute
  • Chronic
  • Ethanol
  • Mice
  • Nest
  • Withdrawal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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