Ethanol Induces Conditioned Social Preference in Male Mice
Affiliative social interactions promote alcohol consumption, and alcohol also promotes affiliative behavior. Furthermore, for most species, moderate doses of ethanol (EtOH) and social affiliation are each rewarding. However, animal studies of drug and EtOH reward typically test individuals in isolation. To address social dimensions of EtOH reward, this study tested EtOH-induced conditioned social preference in male C57BL/6 mice with (ORCHX+T) and without (ORCHX) testosterone.
ORCHX+T males received EtOH (0, 1, 2, or 3 g/kg) intraperitoneally and were paired 4× for 30 minutes each with 1 of 2 stimulus males: with the CS− stimulus male after saline injection and with the CS+ male following EtOH. After pairing, time spent with CS+ and CS− males was measured in a 10-minute test.
ORCHX+T test males showed conditioned preference for the CS+ male in response to 3 g/kg EtOH (change in preference: +71.3 ± 30.0 s/10 min, p < 0.05), but not for 0, 1, or 2 g/kg. By contrast, ORCHX males did not demonstrate conditioned preference for 3 g/kg EtOH (+16.0 ± 24.3 s/10 min, p > 0.05). In separate groups of mice, stimulus males (IS+) received EtOH during pairing to determine whether test mice prefer another intoxicated mouse. Both ORCHX+T and ORCHX test mice showed an increase in preference score for the IS+ mouse (ORCHX+T: +68.1 ± 24.0 seconds; ORCHX: +58.9 ± 19.6 seconds, p < 0.05).
These data demonstrate that EtOH promotes social preference in male mice, as it does in females. Testosterone enhances this effect.