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Alcohol. 2008 Sep;42(6):459-67. doi: 10.1016/j.alcohol.2008.05.002.

Intermittent binge alcohol exposure during the periadolescent period induces spatial working memory deficits in young adult rats.

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Department of Anesthesiology, University of California San Diego, School of Medicine, La Jolla, San Diego, CA 92093, USA.


Human and animal studies suggest adolescence is a period of heightened sensitivity to adverse cognitive sequelae of alcohol exposure. The present study assessed the effects of intermittent binge ethanol intoxication during the periadolescent period of Wistar rats on subsequent performance in a Morris water maze spatial navigation task. On postnatal days 32-56, rats were exposed to ethanol or air 3 days/week via vapor inhalation chambers. Acquisition of spatial navigation was assessed beginning 5 days after the final day of exposure, with 3 days of training in the Morris Water maze (four trials per day spaced at 90-s intertrial intervals [ITIs]). Rats were placed into the water maze at one of four positions along the perimeter, with a different release position to begin each trial. A probe trial assessed retention of platform location on the day after the final set of training trials. Four days after this probe trial, rats entered a working memory phase in which the platform was in a new location each day and a variable ITI of 1, 2, or 4 h was inserted between Trials 1 and 2; Trials 3 and 4 followed at 90-s intervals after Trial 2 on each day. The "savings" in latency to find the platform and distance traveled before finding it from Trial 1 to Trial 2 on each day served as an index of working memory. Ethanol-exposed rats showed similar acquisition of spatial navigation as control rats during training, as well as similar retention of platform location during the probe trial. However, rats exposed to average blood alcohol level (BAL) >200 mg% showed accelerated forgetting, with decreased retention of platform location at the 2-h ITI (P < .05), compared to control rats. Therefore, a 4-week history of intermittent ethanol exposure at BAL in excess of 200 mg% during periadolescence led to a working memory deficit in young adult rats, demonstrated by accelerated forgetting of novel information. These behavioral data are consistent with findings from adolescent human studies, indicating that binge-style alcohol exposure during the periadolescent stage of development is associated with deficits in retention of information.

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