Adolescent mice, unlike adults, consume more alcohol in the presence of peers than alone

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Abstract

One hallmark of adolescent risk-taking is that it typically occurs when adolescents are with peers. It has been hypothesized that the presence of peers primes a reward-sensitive motivational state that overwhelms adolescents' immature capacity for inhibitory control. We examined this hypothesis using a rodent model. A sample of mice were raised in same-sex triads and were tested for alcohol consumption either as juveniles or as adults, with half in each age group tested alone and half tested with their cagemates. The presence of ‘peers’ increased alcohol consumption among adolescent mice, but not adults. The peer effect on human adolescent reward-seeking may reflect a hard-wired, evolutionarily conserved process through which the presence of agemates increases individuals' sensitivity to potential rewards in their immediate environment.

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