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J Neurotrauma. 2002 Dec;19(12):1597-608.

Alcohol consumption in traumatic brain injury: attenuation of TBI-induced hyperthermia and neurocognitive deficits.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Brain Research Institute, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California 90095-1763, USA.


Clinical and animal studies indicate that hyperthermia during or after traumatic brain injury (TBI) is associated with poor outcome. Alcohol intoxication, a complicating risk factor in many cases of head injury, has been found to both worsen or attenuate posttraumatic neural damage and outcome. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether chronic ethanol consumption would affect TBI-induced hyperthermia and deficits in spatial learning. TBI was produced by cortical contusion injury in adult male rats. We first characterized the TBI-induced febrile response using probes implanted intraperitoneally (ip) or intracerebroventricularly for continuous biotelemetric recording of core body and brain temperatures and locomotor activity. In another experiment, rats, implanted with ip probes, were fed a liquid diet containing ethanol (5% w/v, 35% ethanol-derived calories); control rats were pair-fed the isocaloric liquid diet (P-P). At 14 days after commencement of diet feeding, TBI or sham surgery was performed, and the ethanol-fed rats were divided into two groups: half were transferred to the isocaloric diet (E-P) and the other half remained on the ethanol-containing diet (E-E). TBI produced a significant febrile response in all rats, that persisted for at least 6 days in the E-P and P-P groups but lasted for only 2 days in the E-E group. When tested at 3-4 weeks after TBI, E-E rats required significantly fewer trials than E-P rats to reach criterion in the Morris water maze. In sum, continuous consumption of ethanol before and after TBI attenuated TBI-induced hyperthermia and deficits in spatial learning. Whereas the results suggest that this ethanol regimen may be neuroprotective, a causal relationship between the two outcomes remains to be determined.

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