Loss of righting reflex (LRR) has traditionally been used to estimate hypnotic sensitivity to ethanol in rodents. Traditional methods of monitoring ethanol-induced sedation seems to lack accuracy in estimating blood ethanol concentration (BEC) at initial LRR, a measure of initial sensitivity. Herein, we present a novel method that improves detection of the onset of LRR by using a new apparatus and a loss-of-function criterion of 5 s. DBA/2J and C57BL/6J mice were placed in cylindrical restrainers after injection of 3 g/kg (20% v/v) ethanol. Restrainers were then turned until mice were no longer able to right themselves within 5 s from a position on their back, which represented the endpoint of the initial loss of righting reflex. Initial sensitivity and acute functional tolerance (AFT) to ethanol were assessed in the same group of mice by quantifying BEC at the initial loss and subsequent recoveries of righting reflex over four sequential injections [3 g/kg + (3 x 0.5 g/kg)]. Initial brain sensitivity was calculated from BEC at the first LRR, using the parameters of ethanol uptake kinetics. These values of initial sensitivity were similar for the two strains. On the other hand, DBA/2J mice recovered at higher BEC than C57BL/6J animals. AFT calculated as a difference between the maximum BEC at any recovery and the value of initial sensitivity was greater in DBA/2J mice. These results show that the novel method is a sensitive tool for the measurement of initial sensitivity and detection of AFT to the hypnotic effects of ethanol.
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