Dopamine Activity in the Nucleus Accumbens During Consummatory Phases of Oral Ethanol Self-Administration

William M. Doyon, Jennifer L. York, Laurea M. Diaz, Herman H. Samson, Cristine L. Czachowski, Rueben A. Gonzales

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

111 Scopus citations


Background: This present study was designed to clarify the role of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens during operant ethanol self-administration by separating bar pressing (ethanol seeking) from ethanol consumption. Furthermore, we sought to define the relationship between ethanol in the brain and the accumbal dopamine response after oral self-administration of ethanol. Methods: Two separate groups of male Long-Evans rats were trained to bar press with 10% ethanol or water. Rats were trained to elicit an escalating number of bar presses across daily sessions before gaining access to the drinking solution for 20 min. Microdialysis was performed before (during a waiting period), during, and after bar pressing and drinking. A handling control group was included, but did not receive training. Results: A significant increase in dopamine occurred during placement of the rats into the operant chamber in trained rats and handling controls. The lever-pressing period did not produce an increase in dialysate dopamine. Accumbal dopamine was increased in the first 5 min of ethanol, but not water, consumption. Ethanol appeared in the dialysate sample following ethanol availability, and peak concentrations were reached at 10 min. Most of the ethanol and water consumption occurred within 5 min of fluid access. The probes were distributed in the core (32%), shell (32%), and core plus shell (36%) regions of the nucleus accumbens. Conclusions: The enhancement of dopamine during transfer into the operant chamber does not depend on anticipation or operant training with ethanol or water reinforcement. Furthermore, the difference between the time course of accumbal dopamine and ethanol in dialysates suggests that the dopamine response is not solely due to pharmacological effects of ethanol. The dopamine response may be associated with the stimulus properties of ethanol presentation, which would be strongest during consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1573-1582
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


  • Dopamine
  • Ethanol Self-Administration
  • Microdialysis
  • Operant Conditioning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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