Although previous murine studies have demonstrated ethanol self-administration resulting in blood ethanol concentrations (BECs) believed to be pharmacologically relevant, to our knowledge, no study reported to date has demonstrated intoxication via ataxia after self-administration. Thus, the goal of this study was to demonstrate ataxia and to examine changes in c-Fos expression in mice after self-administration of intoxicating doses of ethanol.
Male C57BL/6J mice were trained to drink a 10% ethanol solution during daily 30-min limited access sessions. Mice were exposed to increasing concentrations of ethanol until a 10% ethanol solution was reached. BEC and ataxia, measured as foot slips off of a balance beam, were examined after the limited access self-administration session. In a separate experiment, various brain structures from mice drinking water or ethanol were examined for changes in c-Fos expression two hr after the limited access session.
Mice drank between 1.5 and 2 g/kg of 10% ethanol during the daily 30-min session. BECs for these mice 15 min after the limited access session ranged between 0.52 and 2.13 mg/ml. A significant increase in foot slips off a balance beam was seen immediately after ethanol consumption during the limited access session. Among mice drinking ethanol, an increase in c-Fos expression was seen in the Edinger-Westphal nucleus, and a decrease in c-Fos expression was seen in the cingulate cortex, ventral tegmental area, lateral and medial septum, CA1 region of the hippocampus, and basolateral amygdala.
After this procedure in mice, BECs are achieved that are in a range considered pharmacologically relevant and intoxicating. Significant ataxia was observed after ethanol self-administration. Brain regions showing changes in c-Fos expression after voluntary intoxication were similar to those previously reported, suggesting that these brain regions are involved in regulating behavioral effects of alcohol intoxication.