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Monday, March 26, 2012

Effects of alcohol on the membrane excitability and synaptic transmission of medium spiny neurons in the nucleus accumbens

Chronic and excessive alcohol drinking lead to alcohol dependence and loss of control over alcohol consumption, with serious detrimental health consequences. Chronic alcohol exposure followed by protracted withdrawal causes profound alterations in the brain reward system that leads to marked changes in reinforcement mechanisms and motivational state. These long-lasting neuroadaptations are thought to contribute to the development of cravings and relapse.

The nucleus accumbens (NAcc), a central component of the brain reward system, plays a critical role in alcohol-induced neuroadaptive changes underlying alcohol-seeking behaviors.

Here we review the findings that chronic alcohol exposure produces long-lasting neuroadaptive changes in various ion channels that govern intrinsic membrane properties and neuronal excitability, as well as excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission in the NAcc that underlie alcohol-seeking behavior during protracted withdrawal

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