The effect of age on the discriminative stimulus effects of ethanol and its GABA A receptor mediation in cynomolgus monkeys

Christa M. Helms, Kathleen A. Grant

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    Rationale: Excessive alcohol consumption is less common among aged compared to young adults, with aged adults showing greater sensitivity to many behavioral effects of ethanol. Objectives: This study compared the discriminative stimulus effects of ethanol in young and middle-aged adult cynomolgus monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) and its γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) A receptor mediation. Methods: Two male and two female monkeys trained to discriminate ethanol (1.0 g/kg, i.g.; 60-min pre-treatment interval) from water at 5-6 years of age (Grant et al. in Psychopharmacology 152:181-188, 2000) were re-trained in the current study more than a decade later (19.3∈±∈1.0 years of age) for a within-subjects comparison. Also, four experimentally naïve middle-aged (mean ± SEM, 17.0∈±∈1.5 years of age) female monkeys were trained to discriminate ethanol for between-subjects comparison with published data from young adult naïve monkeys. Results: Two of the naïve middle-aged monkeys attained criterion performance, with weak stimulus control and few discrimination tests, despite greater blood-ethanol concentration 60 min after 1.0 g/kg ethanol in middle-aged compared to young adult female monkeys (Green et al. in Alcohol Clin Exp Res 23:611-616, 1999). The efficacy of the GABA A receptor positive modulators pentobarbital, midazolam, allopregnanolone, pregnanolone, and androsterone to substitute for the discriminative stimulus effects of 1.0 g/kg ethanol was maintained from young adulthood to middle age. Conclusions: The data suggest that 1.0 g/kg ethanol is a weak discriminative stimulus in naive middle-aged monkeys. Nevertheless, the GABA A receptor mechanisms mediating the discriminative stimulus effects of ethanol, when learned as a young adult, appear stable across one third of the primate lifespan.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)333-343
    Number of pages11
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Aug 2011


    • Aging
    • Discrimination
    • Ethanol
    • GABA receptor
    • Monkey

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Pharmacology


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