Early alcohol exposure impairs ocular dominance plasticity throughout the critical period

Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 2005 Jun 9;157(1):107-11. doi: 10.1016/j.devbrainres.2005.03.012.


Animal models of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) have revealed an impairment of sensory neocortex plasticity. Here, we examine whether early alcohol exposure leads to a permanent impairment of ocular dominance plasticity (OD) or to an alteration in the timing of the critical period. Ferrets were exposed to alcohol during a brief period of development prior to eye opening and effects of monocular deprivation examined during early, mid and late critical period. Single-unit electrophysiology revealed markedly reduced OD plasticity at every age examined. This finding provides evidence that early alcohol exposure does not affect the timing or duration of the critical period of OD plasticity and suggests an enduring impairment of neural plasticity in FAS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Critical Period, Psychological*
  • Dominance, Ocular / drug effects*
  • Dominance, Ocular / physiology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Ferrets
  • Functional Laterality / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology
  • Vision, Binocular / drug effects
  • Vision, Binocular / physiology
  • Vision, Monocular / drug effects
  • Vision, Monocular / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol