Longitudinal brain magnetic resonance imaging study of the alcohol-preferring rat. Part II: effects of voluntary chronic alcohol consumption

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2006 Jul;30(7):1248-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2006.00146.x.


Background: Tracking the dynamic course of human alcoholism brain pathology can be accomplished only through naturalistic study and without opportunity for experimental manipulation. Development of an animal model of alcohol-induced brain damage, in which animals consume large amounts of alcohol following cycles of alcohol access and deprivation and are examined regularly with neuroimaging methods, would enable hypothesis testing focused on the degree, nature, and factors resulting in alcohol-induced brain damage and the prospects for recovery or relapse.

Methods: We report the results of longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies of the effects of free-choice chronic alcohol intake on the brains of 2 cohorts of selectively bred alcohol-preferring (P) rats. In the companion paper, we described the MRI acquisition and analysis methods, delineation of brain regions, and growth patterns in total brain and selective structures of the control rats in the present study. Both cohorts were studied as adults for about 1 year and consumed high doses of alcohol for most of the study duration. The paradigm involved a 3-bottle choice with 0, 15 (or 20%), and 30% (or 40%) alcohol available in several different exposure schemes: continuous exposure, cycles of 2 weeks on followed by 2 weeks off alcohol, and binge drinking in the dark.

Results: Brain structures of the adult P rats in both the alcohol-exposed and the water control conditions showed significant growth, which was attenuated in a few measures in the alcohol-exposed groups. The region with the greatest demonstrable effect was the corpus callosum, measured on midsagittal images.

Conclusion: The P rats showed an age-alcohol interaction different from humans, in that normal growth in selective brain regions that continues in adult rats was retarded.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Corpus Callosum / drug effects
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Time Factors


  • Ethanol