Alcohol effects on voles (and how it can relate to you)

While happy hour is ending for some cows, prairie voles are getting to have a drunken night out in a new study from Oregon Health and Science University.

Studies and findings regarding the effect of alcohol on social behavior can be found virtually anywhere. However, this new study looks at what is happening in the brain in different genders by using prairie voles.

The voles are, perhaps surprisingly, a lot like humans when it comes to their actions after consuming alcohol.

One of the first tests was based on partner preferences — finding that, if given the choice between their chosen partner and a stranger, male voles often went with the stranger. Females, on the other hand, wanted to stick with their partner. The same behavior was seen again in a later study based on stress responses; the females wanted to “tend and befriend,” contrasting the males fight-or-flight response.

The study is beneficial to better learn why humans act the way they do when they are at the bar. Cheers!

It is based on these similarities, and the vole’s monogamous relationships, that have caused them to be a model for human bonding studies. In this case, it also helps that the voles seemed to gravitate towards alcohol. “Animals preferred the water and 10% ethanol solution provided rather than pure water,” said Andrew Ryabinin, leader of the study.

Where the voles may begin to differentiate from humans is in their mating, aggression and motor behaviors. Any effects on these behaviors were not due to alcoholic influence, researchers found. Instead, “the effects on bonding were happening independently,” Ryabinin said in a recent article in National Geographic.

It is because of this difference of motivations “under the influence” that has the voles poised as such great subjects for experiments.

“We can use prairie voles to model not just our alcohol-related behavior, but [also] the underlying molecular influences on that behavior,” Ryabinin said.

The study is just the first step, but the possibilities are great. “More studies are required, but separating biological effects from purely cultural ones could lead to better treatments for both problem drinking and the resulting interpersonal conflicts,” Ryabinin added.

Comments are closed.