A Novel Risky Decision-Making Task in High and Low Alcohol Preferring Mice
Deficits in impulse control and decision-making have been implicated in the development and maintenance of alcohol use disorders (AUDs). Individuals with AUD often make disadvantageous choices under conditions of probabilistic risk. The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) is often used to measure risky decision-making, in which impaired individuals tend to favor large, infrequent rewards even when punished for these choices, rather than smaller, safer, and more advantageous rewards. It remains poorly understood if these deficits are behaviors under genetic control and if ethanol intoxication may alter decision-making. High and Low Alcohol Preferring (HAP3 and LAP3, respectively) mice were trained on a novel gambling task to investigate these possible influences. In Experiment 1, HAP3s and LAP3s responded for a 0.1% saccharin solution, choosing between a risky and a safe option. Importantly, choosing the risky option was meant to be ultimately disadvantageous. In Experiment 2, these same HAP3 mice responded for saccharin or saccharin plus 10% ethanol. Contrary to hypothesis, LAP3s preferred the risky option more than HAP3s. Alcohol increased preference for the risky lever, but only in male mice. HAP3 preference for the safe lever may be explained by higher motivation to obtain sweet rewards, or higher overall avidity for responding. Ethanol-induced changes in male risk behavior may be explained by higher androgen levels, but further investigation is required. Similarly, continued research is necessary to optimize a risky decision-making task for both lines, and thus investigate possible genetic differences in risk acceptance that correlate with differences in alcohol intake.