3 years ago

Sex Differences in Animal Models: Focus on Addiction.

Becker JB, Koob GF
The purpose of this review is to discuss ways to think about and study sex differences in preclinical animal models. We use the framework of addiction, in which animal models have excellent face and construct validity, to illustrate the importance of considering sex differences. There are four types of sex differences: qualitative, quantitative, population, and mechanistic. A better understanding of the ways males and females can differ will help scientists design experiments to characterize better the presence or absence of sex differences in new phenomena that they are investigating. We have outlined major quantitative, population, and mechanistic sex differences in the addiction domain using a heuristic framework of the three established stages of the addiction cycle: binge/intoxication, withdrawal/negative affect, and preoccupation/anticipation. Female rats, in general, acquire the self-administration of drugs and alcohol more rapidly, escalate their drug taking with extended access more rapidly, show more motivational withdrawal, and (where tested in animal models of "craving") show greater reinstatement. The one exception is that female rats show less motivational withdrawal to alcohol. The bases for these quantitative sex differences appear to be both organizational, in that estradiol-treated neonatal animals show the male phenotype, and activational, in that the female phenotype depends on the effects of gonadal hormones. In animals, differences within the estrous cycle can be observed but are relatively minor. Such hormonal effects seem to be most prevalent during the acquisition of drug taking and less influential once compulsive drug taking is established and are linked largely to progesterone and estradiol. This review emphasizes not only significant differences in the phenotypes of females and males in the domain of addiction but emphasizes the paucity of data to date in our understanding of those differences.

Publisher URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26772794

DOI: PubMed:26772794

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