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Psychology Department Colloquium Adolescence and Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix for Prefrontal Axons

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Psychology Department Colloquium Adolescence and Alcohol: A Dangerous Mix for Prefrontal Axons
PsychologyDepartmentColloquium
AdolescenceandAlcohol:
ADangerousMixforPrefrontalAxons
HeatherNRichardson,Ph.D.
Dept.PsychologicalandBrainSciences
UniversityofMassachusettsAmherst
Abstract
Drinkingatayoungage—especiallyheavyepisodicbingedrinking—isassociatedwithreductions
inwhitematter,cognitiveabilities,andanincreasedriskofstress‐relateddisorderssuchas
addictioninadulthood.Thissuggeststhatexperienceswithalcoholmayalteradolescentbrain
developmentandhavelong‐lastingeffectsonmentalhealthriskinadulthood.Alternatively,these
neuralandbehavioralcharacteristicsmaybepresentpriorto—andpotentiallyleadto—heavy
drinkingearlyinadolescence.Tohelpdelineatethesetwopossibilitieswedevelopedapreclinical
modelofvoluntarybingedrinkinginadolescentrats.Thisoperantself‐administrationmodeluses
sweetenedalcoholandadynamic,intermittentdrinkingscheduletostimulatehighvoluntary
intakeofalcoholearlyinadolescenceinoutbredWistarrats,i.e.,animalswithoutapredisposition
foralcoholabuseordependence.Themodelwasusedtoexploretheeffectofadolescentalcoholon
myelinatedaxonsinmalerats.Wefoundevidenceofmyelinlossanddamageintheprefrontal
cortexofalcohol‐exposedanimals,whichrelatedtohigherrelapse‐likedrinkinginadulthood.
Finally,animalsthatconsumedthehighestamountofalcoholduringadolescenceshowedtheworst
performanceonaworkingmemorytaskinadulthood.Thesefindingsestablishacausalroleof
voluntaryalcoholintakeonmyelinandgiveinsightintospecificprefrontalaxonsthatareboth
sensitivetoalcoholandcouldcontributetothebehavioralandcognitiveimpairmentsassociated
withearlyonsetdrinkingandalcoholism. January22,20154pm
Refreshmentsservedat3:45
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