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Social play behaviour is a rewarding social activity displayed by young mammals, thought to be important for the development of brain and behaviour. Indeed, disruptions of social play behaviour in rodents have been associated with cognitive deficits and augmented sensitivity to self-administration of substances of abuse, including alcohol, later in life. However, the relation between social development and loss of control over substance use, a key characteristic of substance use disorders including alcohol use disorder (AUD), has not been investigated. Moreover, it remains unknown how inherent differences in playfulness relate to differences in the sensitivity to substance use and AUD.


The objective of this study is to determine how individual differences in juvenile social play behaviour predict alcohol intake and loss of control over alcohol seeking.


Juvenile male Lister hooded rats were characterized for their tendency to engage in social play behaviour. Subsequently, alcohol consumption and conditioned suppression of alcohol seeking were assessed in the tertiles of rats that showed the most and least social play.


The rats that engaged most in social play behaviour consumed more alcohol than their less playful counterparts. However, whereas the most playful rats showed intact conditioned suppression of alcohol seeking, the least playful rats showed no such suppression.


Individual levels of playfulness predict the sensitivity to alcohol-directed behaviour. Highly playful rats are more prone to alcohol intake, yet show greater control over alcohol seeking. These findings increase our understanding of the relationship between social development and vulnerability to AUD.

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