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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2008 Aug;32(8):1350-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2008.00709.x. Epub 2008 Jun 6.

Differential dietary ethanol intake and blood ethanol levels in adolescent and adult rats: effects on anxiety-like behavior and seizure thresholds.

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Neurobiology Curriculum, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.



Adult rats exhibit increased anxiety-like behavior after exposure to repeated cycles of chronic ethanol and withdrawal. While adolescent rats have differential responses to both acute and chronic ethanol treatments, the potential differences in the effects of repeated withdrawals in this population have yet to be determined.


Male adult and adolescent rats received three 5-day cycles of either a 4.5% or 7% ethanol diet (ED) separated by two 2-day withdrawal periods. Five hours into the final withdrawal, rats were tested for social interaction (SI) deficits (an index of anxiety-like behavior) and then assessed for seizure thresholds (audiogenic and bicuculline-induced). Ethanol intake was monitored throughout, and blood ethanol concentrations (BEC) were obtained from a separate group of rats.


Adolescent rats have reduced SI during the final withdrawal from either ED and exhibit a greater reduction in SI compared to adult rats when exposed to a 7%ED. Audiogenic seizures were not increased during withdrawal from either ED in adult rats, but adolescent rats that received 7%ED displayed increased seizures. The bicuculline seizure thresholds were decreased in both ages exposed to a 7%ED, but only adolescent rats showed this decreased threshold after 4.5%ED. Ethanol intakes and BECs were higher in adolescent rats compared to similarly treated adults. However, ethanol intakes and BECs were comparable between 4.5%ED-treated adolescent and 7%ED-treated adult rats.


Behavioral results from the 7%ED-treated groups suggested that adolescent rats may be more vulnerable to repeated withdrawals from ethanol than adults; however, differences in ethanol intake and BECs may be at least in part responsible. When ethanol intakes and BECs were similar between 4.5%ED-treated adolescent and 7%ED-treated adult rats, behavioral effects were not different. Importantly, these data illustrated that adolescent rats can exhibit anxiety and reduced seizure thresholds following this repeated withdrawal paradigm.

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