Learning in the 2-bottle alcohol preference test

David A. Blizard, David J. Vandenbergh, Arimantas Lionikas, Gerald E. McClearn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: The 2-bottle preference test is a popular protocol for characterizing a rodent's selection of a variety of solutions. Little attention has been paid, however, to the role of learning in this procedure. Methods: We explored the role of learning in 2-bottle alcohol preference (AP) in mice by recording changes between days and periods (every 3 days the alcohol and water tubes were interchanged) throughout a 15-day standard exposure protocol in use in our laboratory. Results: Male and female ethanol-naive mice of 2 BALB strains (cJ and cByJ), both characterized by low AP scores in the 2-bottle test, exhibited decreases in AP among days but the magnitude of the change depended on test period: relatively large reductions in AP between Day 1 and the subsequent 2 days of the first 3-day test period, smaller decreases between days during Period 2, while there were no significant differences between days during Periods 3 and 4. Thus, the ability of the mice to adapt to changes in tube position improved with increasing experience with the test until asymptote was reached. Study of mice from a C57BL/6JXBALB/cCrgl intercross with a wide range of AP scores showed that learning in the 2-bottle test was not restricted to inbred animals. In this genetically heterogeneous group, learning was shown to be flexible according to an animal's idiosyncratic pattern of alcohol intake: mice characterized by low AP scores on the basis of their 15-day mean AP index exhibited decreases across Days and Periods similar to those shown by the BALB mice (who also had low alcohol consumption) but F2 mice characterized by high overall AP scores exhibited increases in AP across Periods. Conclusions: Two-bottle AP scores are known to be affected by genetic influences and environmental variation before test administration. The present data provide evidence of learning within the 2-bottle test situation and this phenomenon may help understand the biobehavioral mechanisms underlying preference behavior. ©

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2041-2046
Number of pages6
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


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