Ethanol impairs memory of a simple discrimination in adolescent rats at doses that leave adult memory unaffected

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2004 Jan;81(1):75-81. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2003.08.005.


Adolescent rats are less sensitive than adults to the hypothermic, anxiolytic, motor impairing, hypnotic, and lethal effects of ethanol. In vitro experiments nevertheless suggest that hippocampal neural activity is more affected by ethanol in preweanling or adolescent rats than in adults. These data are complemented by in vivo results showing that pretraining ethanol impairs learning in adolescent rats at doses that do not affect adult learning. In order to determine if posttraining ethanol affects memory differently in adolescents than in adults, Sprague-Dawley albino rats of both ages were trained in an appetitively motivated odor discrimination in which they were required to dig in scented sand for sweetened cereal reward. Immediately after training subjects received intraperitoneal injections of 0, 0.5, or 1g/kg ethanol (12.6%). At test, 48h later, subjects were presented with unbaited discriminanda and the time (s) spent digging in the S+ and S- was measured. Adolescents, but not adults, showed impaired discrimination performance if training was followed by ethanol. A subsequent experiment discounted the possibility that impaired adolescent performance was due to ethanol-induced conditioned taste or odor aversions. It thus appears that relative to adults, memory in adolescent rats is more strongly affected by ethanol in a test of appetitive conditioning that excludes ethanol's effects on sensory and motivational influences during the learning experience.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior / drug effects*
  • Avoidance Learning / drug effects
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Long-Term Potentiation / drug effects
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Retention, Psychology / drug effects*
  • Smell / drug effects*
  • Taste / drug effects


  • Ethanol