Residual behavioral and neuroanatomical effects of short-term chronic ethanol consumption in rats

Anthony C. Santucci, Marisol Mercado, Annemarie Bettica, Christian Cortes, Daniel York, Erik Moody

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14 Scopus citations


The residual effects of short-term chronic ethanol consumption were investigated in rats maintained on an ethanol liquid diet for 26 consecutive days (mean intake=16.1 g/kg/day). Animals were assessed for spontaneous motor activity (12 days post-ethanol), spatial working memory (17 days post-ethanol), spatial reference memory (184 days post-ethanol), and retention of passive avoidance (201 days post-ethanol). Measurements of brain weights and cortical thickness vertices within the dorsomedial and ventrolateral cortex of eight coronal planes were determined 260 days post-ethanol. Two-dimensional cell profile densities within six coronal planes and within CA1 region of the hippocampus were also obtained, along with the total volumetric measurement of the hippocampus proper. Results indicated between group differences when subjects were assessed on working memory with ethanol-treated animals exhibiting longer escape latencies in a Morris water maze, an effect partially attributed to the perseverance of ethanol-treated animals in exhibiting thigmotaxicity. No other ethanol-related behavioral impairment was noted. Neuroanatomically, ethanol-treated rats had thinner cortical mantles (6.3% and 6.6% reductions) within the frontoparietal cortex and had lower two-dimensional cell profile densities within the most caudal cortical region studied. Interestingly, control animals with thicker cortical mantles tended to perform better on the working memory task, whereas the opposite was true for ethanol-treated subjects. These data led to the conclusion that chronic ethanol consumption of a relatively short duration produces working memory impairments, albeit mild, that are partially related to an inability to abandon ineffectual behavioral strategies, and also produces neuroanatomical alterations within the cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-461
Number of pages13
JournalCognitive Brain Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Drugs of abuse: alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines
  • Hippocampus
  • Morris water maze
  • Neural Basis of Behavior
  • Open-field
  • Passive avoidance
  • Spatial memory
  • Thigmotaxis
  • Working memory


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