Author(s): Sircar R, Sircar D
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Repeated ethanol treatment has been reported to differentially affect water maze performance in adolescent and adult rats. The present study was undertaken to determine the age-specific reversal of ethanol-induced deficit in water maze performance. METHODS: Adolescent and adult male rats were subjected to repeated ethanol or saline treatments. Experimental rats were injected daily with 2 g/kg ethanol (intraperitoneally) for five consecutive days (Days 1-5) and tested in the hidden platform task of the Morris water maze 30 minutes after ethanol treatment; control rats received isovolumetric saline. On the last training day, all rats were tested in the probe trial and in the cued visual task. After an ethanol-free period of 4-25 days, rats were retested in the water maze. RESULTS: Adolescent ethanol-treated rats had significantly higher latencies and swam greater distances to find the hidden platform, compared to age-matched saline control rats. Ethanol rats also showed increased hug time, i.e., spent significantly more time near the periphery of the pool than control rats. In the probe trial, compared to adolescent saline rats, ethanol rats spent less time in the target quadrant. However, there was no difference between ethanol- and saline-treated rats in the swim speed or in the visual task performance. Experimental and control rats were retested in the water maze 4 days (Day 9), 7 days (Day 12), and 25 days (Day 30) after the last ethanol/saline treatment; no injections were given on those days. Ethanol-treated rats continued to do poorly on all retest days. Ethanol treatment in adult male rats acutely increased latency and distance to find the hidden platform, but unlike adolescent alcohol rats, their performance in the probe trial did not differ from adult saline rats. Also, swim speed and visual task performance of adult rats were significantly affected by ethanol exposure. During retesting, their performance did not differ from adult control rats. CONCLUSIONS: Adolescent rats exposed to ethanol showed deficits in water maze performance, had increased hug time, and failed to catch up with control rats during the weeks after the ethanol treatment period was over. Adult alcohol rats showed some behavioral dysfunction (increased latency and distance to find the hidden platform) but had problems swimming, and in the probe trial they performed as well as control rats. Also, in adult rats, ethanol-induced impairments were quickly reversed after the ethanol treatment was over, a finding that suggests impaired motor coordination more than a true learning deficit. Together, these data indicate that repeated ethanol treatment in adolescent rats, but not adult rats, show long-term impairments in maze performance.
This article was published in Alcohol Clin Exp Res
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy