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Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1995 Oct;19(5):1321-6.

Permanent neuronal cell loss in the inferior olive of adult rats exposed to alcohol during the brain growth spurt: a stereological investigation.

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Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, University of Otago Medical School, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The purpose of this study was to examine whether exposure of rat pups to alcohol postnatally over a period of brain development similar to that of the human 3rd trimester results in a permanent loss of cells in the inferior olivary nucleus. It was hypothesized that a deficit of neurons in the inferior olive, the sole source of climbing fibers, may contribute to the cerebellar dysfunction observed following exposure to alcohol during development. Sprague-Dawley rat pups were artificially reared and administered alcohol over postnatal days 4-9. One artificially reared group received a daily alcohol dose of 4.5 g/kg, administered as a 10.2% solution in 2 of 12 daily feedings (10.2% group). This pattern of alcohol administration resulted in high peak blood alcohol concentrations with near total clearance. The other artificially reared group was fed a diet made isocaloric to the alcohol-containing diet (gastrostomy control group). Pups were allowed to grow to adulthood and killed on postnatal day 115. The total number of neurons in the inferior olivary nucleus was estimated using unbiased stereological methods. Exposure to alcohol resulted in a significant deficit in the number of neurons in the inferior olive at 115 days of age. The total number of neurons in the alcohol-exposed group was 40.12 +/- 8.7 x 10(3), compared with 53.37 +/- 3.7 x 10(3) in the artificially reared controls. These results indicate that there is a permanent deficit of neurons in the inferior olive after postnatal exposure to alcohol.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS).

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