Chronic Ethanol Exposure During Adolescence Increases Basal Dopamine in the Nucleus Accumbens Septi During Adulthood

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ontogeny, adolescent rat, nucleus accumbens, quantitative microdialysis, mesolimbic system

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Background: In humans, adolescent exposure to alcohol is associated with the onset of adult alcohol dependency and suggests that early use potentiates vulnerability to addiction. The aim of the present study was to address whether chronic ethanol exposure during adolescence would alter nucleus accumbens septi (NAcc) dopamine (DA) levels in the adult brain.

Methods: Rats were injected daily from postnatal day (PND) 30 to 50 with either 0.75 g/kg/i.p. ethanol or saline followed by an ethanol‐abstinent period from PND 51 to 65. Changes in extracellular DA levels in the anterior NAcc shell were measured via the no net flux (NNF) paradigm.

Results: Extracellular DA levels were greater in rats chronically treated with ethanol during adolescence (6.5 nM DA) in comparison with saline‐exposed controls (3.6 nM DA). There were no differences in extraction fraction (Ed), an indirect measure of DA reuptake, between ethanol‐treated (87%) and nontreated (68%) rats.

Conclusions: Together these findings suggest that changes in extracellular DA may be an underlying physiological mechanism in adolescent vulnerability to the rewarding properties of ethanol.

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Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, v. 31, issue 5, p. 895-900