Molecular and Genetic Approaches to Understanding Alcohol-Seeking Behavior

  • Ting-Kai Li
  • David W. Crabb
  • Lawrence Lumeng


In alcoholism research, two fundamental and related questions are: “why do people drink?” and“why do some people drink too much despite having experienced negative consequences?” Drinking normally occurs in a social setting. Environmental factors and how individuals react to them can therefore have powerful influences on drinking behavior. On the other hand, the neuropsychopharmacological actions of ethanol and how different individuals react to these effects can be important biological determinants. Ethanol’s action is biphasic, that is, it can be reinforcing or rewarding at low concentrations, but aversive at high concentrations (Pohorecky, 1977). Perception by the individual of the reinforcing actions of ethanol might be expected to maintain alcohol-seeking behavior, whereas aversive effects would be expected to extinguish it. The disorder alcoholism can be defined in experimentally approachable terms as a state of abnormally intense alcohol-seeking behavior that over time leads to the alcohol dependence syndrome (Edwards and Gross, 1976). Identification of both the environmental and the biological variables that promote and maintain high alcohol-seeking or alcohol self-administration behavior is key to our understanding of this disorder.


Recombinant Inbred Alcohol Preference Ethanol Preference ALDH Isozyme ALDH2 Deficiency 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ting-Kai Li
  • David W. Crabb
  • Lawrence Lumeng

There are no affiliations available

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