Impact of Alcohol Exposure on Neuroplasticity
New research and analysis examine how alcohol exposure impacts many aspects of neuroplasticity in a special issue “Alcohol and Neural Plasticity,” of the Journal Brain Plasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to modify and reorganize itself. It is affected by or in response to excessive alcohol, whether through individual consumption or exposure in the womb.
Lee Anna Cunningham and colleagues examined the functional and structural consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure on adult-generated neurons. They found, no direct effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on adult hippocampal neurogenesis in mice housed under standard conditions. But prenatal alcohol exposure impaired the neurogenic response to an enriched environment. The mice performed poorly in a neurogenesis-dependent pattern discrimination task and displayed impaired enrichment-mediated increases in dendrite complexity.
Dr. Nixon and colleagues studied the role of adult-born neurons in the recovery of hippocampal learning and memory during withdrawal and abstinence from alcohol dependence. They hypothesized that reducing reactive neurogenesis would impair functional recovery. Adult male rats were subjected to a four-day binge alcohol exposure, and then reactive neurogenesis was chemically inhibited. Despite reducing this potential mechanism of hippocampal repair, learning and memory behavior still recovered and were identical to controls.
The special issue also reviews several key issues:
- the effect of combined alcohol and cocaine exposure on neural stem cells and adult neurogenesis;
- the neurotoxic effects of binge alcohol consumption, highlighting the scarcity of work on females and the aged;
- the role of immune activation as a mechanism of alcohol’s effects on synaptic and structural plasticity;
- one of the first in-depth discussions of alcohol’s neurophysiological effects on hippocampal excitatory activity during alcohol withdrawal.
- a review and data paper on alcohol effects on synaptic mechanisms that underlie the various behavioral deficits that occur with the development of alcohol abuse disorder; and
- a developmental study that offers insight into our understanding of alcohol’s effects at synapses during juvenile development.
The overarching goal of most of our research programs is to find a potential therapeutic target that could be utilized to develop a drug to treat addiction. The progress I hope for is that if we can find a novel approach or target within these various plasticity systems, it will be more efficacious in the treatment of alcohol use disorders and more people will seek treatment. That said, much of this work is very novel and translational, but not yet near the drug development stage,” said Dr. Kimberly Nixon, Guest Editor, College of Pharmacy, University of Texas at Austin, as per News Medical Sciences.Dr. Kimberly Nixon, Guest Editor, College of Pharmacy, University of Texas at Austin