Rats, Bad Decisions and Jelloshots
It is an accepted fact of life that alcohol and good decision making have only loose a acquaintance with one another. Like ships passing in the night, they may meet or they may not. This is true for the momentarily intoxicated but does that propensity for poor choices follow us even after the libations cease? Adolescents who drink alcohol from an early age appear to suffer from impaired decision making skills later in life but the connection is not clear cut as to whether the alcohol lead to that ill advised life choice or if the bad decisions lead to the alcohol.
In an effort to tease out those threads researchers used rats to model behaviour. In this case to entice the rats to consume the alcohol they provided it as part of a “palatable gel matrix” or in common parlance, jelloshots. This allowed the researchers to promote high levels of voluntary alcohol consumption among the adolescent rats. Now to measure the effect of this alcohol on the rats decision making abilities they weren’t able to offer the rats stock market options or the choice of marrying Tony Veitch. To substitute for these sorts of things the rats were give a choice between low risk certain rewards and large but uncertain risky rewards.
Rats that had consumed large amounts of alcohol were biased towards the high risk behaviour even after 3 months without alcohol, or well into maturity. Whereas the control rats displayed behaviour that assessed the risk against the pay-off and went for the more certain rewards. Unfortunately the full study is locked behind a pay wall* so I can’t determine how the study was controlled, how reliable these results are and what they actually tell us about the link between early alcohol abuse and risk taking behaviour later in life. If anyone has access to this info I’d appreciate it. In the absence of this information it seems as if the alcohol is a significant predictor of risk seeking behaviour independent of the innate predilections of the individual. Or to put it another way:
*Why is the best stuff hidden away? Universal Open Access, your day will come!