Conditioned Stimuli Affect Ethanol-Seeking by Female Alcohol-Preferring (P) Rats: The Role of Repeated-Deprivations, Cue-Pretreatment, and Cue-Temporal Intervals

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Rationale: Evidence indicates that drug-paired stimuli can evoke drug-craving leading to drug-seeking and repeated relapse periods can influence drug-seeking behaviors. Objectives: The present study examined (1) the effect of an interaction between repeated deprivation cycles and excitatory conditioning stimuli (CS+) on ethanol (EtOH)-seeking; (2) the effects of EtOH-paired cue-exposure in a non-drug-paired environment on subsequent conditioning in a drug-paired environment; and (3) the temporal effects of conditioned cues on subsequent EtOH-seeking. Methods: Adult female alcohol-preferring (P) rats were exposed to three conditioned odor cues; CS+ associated with EtOH self-administration, CS− associated with the absence of EtOH (extinction training), and a neutral stimulus (CS0) presented in a neutral non-drug-paired environment. The rats underwent four deprivation cycles or were non-deprived, following extinction they were maintained in a home cage for an EtOH-free period, and then exposed to no cue, CS+, CS−, or CS0 to assess the effect of the conditioned cues on EtOH-seeking behavior. Results: Repeated deprivations enhanced and prolonged the duration of CS+ effects on EtOH-seeking. Presentation of the CS− in a non-drug-paired environment blocked the ability of a CS+ to enhance EtOH-seeking in a drug-paired environment. Presentation of the CS+ or CS− in a non-drug-paired environment 2 or 4 h earlier significantly altered EtOH-seeking. Conclusion: Results indicated an interaction between repeated deprivation cycles and CS+ resulted in a potentiation of CS+ evoked EtOH-seeking. In addition, a CS− may have therapeutic potential by providing prophylactic protection against relapse behavior in the presence of cues in the drug-using environment.