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Monday, April 22, 2013

Region-specific depression of striatal activity in Wistar rat by modest ethanol consumption over a ten-month period

The nucleus accumbens (nAc) is the primary target for the mesolimbic dopamine system and a key brain region for the reinforcing effects displayed by drugs of abuse, including ethanol. During the transition from recreational to compulsive consumption of reinforcing drugs, however, the dorsal striatum seems to be recruited. Understanding how synaptic activity is altered in a sub-region specific manner in the striatum during the course of long-term drug consumption thus could be essential for understanding the long-lasting changes produced by addictive substances, including ethanol.

Here we evaluated synaptic activity in the dorsolateral striatum (DLS) and ventral striatum (nucleus accumbens, nAc) of single-housed Wistar rats consuming water, or water and ethanol, for up to 10 months.

Even though ethanol intake was moderate, it was sufficient to decrease input/output function in response to stimulation intensity in the DLS, while recorded population spike (PS) amplitudes in the nAc were unaffected. Striatal disinhibition induced by the GABAA receptor antagonist bicuculline had a slower onset in rats that had consumed ethanol for 2 months, and was significantly depressed in slices from rats that had consumed ethanol for 4 months. Bicuculline-induced disinhibition in the nAc, on the other hand, was not significantly altered by long-term ethanol intake. Changes in PS amplitude induced by taurine or the glycine receptor antagonist strychnine were not significantly altered by ethanol in any brain region.

Even though input/output function was not significantly affected by age, there was a significant decline in antagonist-induced disinhibition in brain slices from aged rats.

The data presented here suggest that even modest consumption of ethanol is sufficient to alter neurotransmission in the striatum, while synaptic activity appears to be relatively well-preserved in the nAc during the course of long-term ethanol consumption.

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