Smith, M.L.1, Hostetler, C.1, Heinricher, M.M.1 & Ryabinin, A.E.1
1Behavioral Neuroscience Department, Oregon Health & Science University
Pain in humans is strongly influenced by psychosocial and environmental factors. Because chronic pain and alcohol abuse are often co-morbid, we examined pain behavior during alcohol withdrawal following a period of voluntary drinking in C57BL/6J mice. Our findings reveal an enhanced pain state not only during withdrawal, but also in “bystander” water-drinking mice housed nearby. These bystanders demonstrate activation of cortical areas thought to contribute to the pain experience in humans. In addition, olfactory cues related to alcohol withdrawal, but not consumption or intoxication, are sufficient for transfer of this pain state. The current studies support the link between alcohol abuse and pain, and for the first time, show that pain in laboratory rodents can be induced by a social stimulus independent of injury, stress, anxiety, or emotional contagion. These data highlight the complex and multidimensional nature of social information transfer between rodents.