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Behav Pharmacol. 2008 Sep;19(5-6):604-14. doi: 10.1097/FBP.0b013e32830ded27.

Motor impairment: a new ethanol withdrawal phenotype in mice.

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Portland Alcohol Research Center, VAMC Research, Oregon, USA.


Alcoholism is a complex disorder with genetic and environmental risk factors. The presence of withdrawal symptoms is one criterion for alcohol dependence. Genetic animal models have followed a reductionist approach by quantifying various effects of ethanol withdrawal separately. Different ethanol withdrawal symptoms may have distinct genetic etiologies, and therefore differentiating distinct neurobiological mechanisms related to separate signs of withdrawal would increase our understanding of various aspects of the complex phenotype. This study establishes motor incoordination as a new phenotype of alcohol withdrawal in mice. Mice were made physically dependent on ethanol by exposure to ethanol vapor for 72 h. The effects of ethanol withdrawal in mice from different genetic backgrounds were measured on the accelerating rotarod, a simple motor task. Ethanol withdrawal disrupted accelerating rotarod behavior in mice. The disruptive effects of withdrawal suggest a performance rather than a learning deficit. Inbred strain comparisons suggest genetic differences in magnitude of this withdrawal phenotype. The withdrawal-induced deficits were not correlated with the selection response difference in handling convulsion severity in selectively bred Withdrawal Seizure-Prone and Withdrawal Seizure-Resistant lines. The accelerating rotarod seems to be a simple behavioral measure of ethanol withdrawal that is suitable for comparing genotypes.

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