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Alcohol Res. 2015;37(1):109-24.

Mechanisms of Neuroplasticity and Ethanol's Effects on Plasticity in the Striatum and Bed Nucleus of the Stria Terminalis.

Author information

1
Integrative Neuroscience, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Bethesda, Maryland.
2
Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies; Department of Pharmacology; University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Abstract

Long-lasting changes in synaptic function (i.e., synaptic plasticity) have long been thought to contribute to information storage in the nervous system. Although synaptic plasticity mainly has adaptive functions that allow the organism to function in complex environments, it is now clear that certain events or exposure to various substances can produce plasticity that has negative consequences for organisms. Exposure to drugs of abuse, in particular ethanol, is a life experience that can activate or alter synaptic plasticity, often resulting in increased drug seeking and taking and in many cases addiction.Two brain regions subject to alcohol's effects on synaptic plasticity are the striatum and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), both of which have key roles in alcohol's actions and control of intake. The specific effects depend on both the brain region analyzed (e.g., specific subregions of the striatum and BNST) and the duration of ethanol exposure (i.e., acute vs. chronic). Plastic changes in synaptic transmission in these two brain regions following prolonged ethanol exposure are thought to contribute to excessive alcohol drinking and relapse to drinking. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this plasticity may lead to new therapies for treatment of these and other aspects of alcohol use disorder.

PMID:
26259092
PMCID:
PMC4476598
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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