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Keywords:

  • Taste;
  • Reactivity;
  • Rat;
  • Palatability;
  • Alcohol

High alcohol drinking (HAD) and low alcohol drinking (LAD) rats were tested, in three exposures, for taste reactivity to five concentrations of alcohol (5%, 10%, 20%, 30%, and 40%, v/v), water, and one concentration each of sucrose and quinine. Of the three reactivity exposures, one was done before a 3-week period of continuous access to water and 10% alcohol, the second test was done immediately after the consumption period, and the final reactivity test was done after 1 month of alcohol abstinence. The results showed that the groups did not differ in reactivity on the initial test. After the consumption tests (when the HAD rats consumed significantly more alcohol than the LAD rats), differences in reactivity were found: HAD rats produced significantly more ingestive responses (which promote consumption) and significantly fewer aversive responses (which facilitate fluid rejection) than LAD rats. These differences were maintained even after 1 month of alcohol abstinence. The present data replicate an earlier experiment with alcohol-preferring (P) rats and alcohol-non-preferring (NP) rats, and indicate that the selective breeding process does not produce differences in the innate perception of the taste of alcohol. However, after experience with drinking alcohol, rats selectively bred for high alcohol consumption exhibit a palatability shift reflected by high ingestive responding and little or no aversive responding. Such a shift would clearly contribute to the maintenance of high levels of alcohol consumption.