Forgetting, preconditioning CS familiarization and taste aversion learning: An animal experiment with implications for alcoholism treatment

Ralph L. Elkins, Stephen H. Hobbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


The rapid taste aversion acquisition, which typically occurs in many species when ingestion of a novel flavor precedes gastrointestinal distress, is retarded by preconditioning familiarity with the CS flavor. This CS familiarity effect (CSFE) might contraindicate taste aversion approaches to alcoholism treatment since alcoholics are quite accustomed to the tastes of alcoholic beverages. However, many alcoholics do develop strong nausea-induced alcohol aversions under appropriate conditioning parameters. Additionally, the CSFE is attenuated in rats by repeated conditioning trials including discrimination training. The present animal experiment was conducted to determine if the CSFE could additionally be weakened by process of forgetting, i.e. by preconditioning withdrawal of a familiar flavor analogous to an alcoholic's 'drying out' before psychotherapeutic intervention. Using saccharin as the CS flavor and cyclophosphamide as the conditioning agent, Sprague-Dawley derived rats acquired no aversions when conditioning was attempted immediately after flavor familiarization. However, significant and equivalent saccharin aversions were observed when conditioning was delayed for either 20 or 100 days after familiarization. These findings imply that the efficiency and cost effectiveness of taste aversion approaches to alcoholism treatment might be enhanced by a pretreatment period of abstinence from alcohol ingestion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)567-573
Number of pages7
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1979


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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