The ontogeny of ethanol aversion

Jessica Saalfield, Linda Spear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Recent work has suggested separate developmental periods within the broader framework of adolescence, with data suggesting distinct alterations and vulnerabilities within these intervals. While previous research has suggested reduced sensitivity to the aversive effects of alcohol in adolescence relative to adults, a more detailed ontogeny of this effect has yet to be conducted. The adolescent brain undergoes significant transitions throughout adolescence, including in regions linked with drug reward and aversion. The current study aimed to determine the ontogeny of ethanol aversion by utilizing a conditioned taste aversion procedure at six different ages to test the hypothesis that the transitions into, through, and out of adolescence are associated with ontogenetic alterations in sensitivity to the aversive properties of ethanol. Non-deprived animals given Boost® as the conditioned stimulus (CS) were used in Experiment 1, whereas Experiment 2 used water-restricted animals provided with a saccharin/sucrose solution as the CS. In both experiments, an attenuated sensitivity to the aversive properties of ethanol was evident in adolescents compared to adults, although more age differences were apparent in water deprived animals than when a highly palatable CS was given to ad libitum animals. Overall, the data suggest an attenuated sensitivity to the aversive properties of ethanol that is most pronounced during pre- and early adolescence, declining thereafter to reach the enhanced aversive sensitivity of adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
StatePublished - Mar 15 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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