Effects of acute or chronic ethanol exposure during adolescence on behavioral inhibition and efficiency in a modified water maze task

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 17;8(10):e77768. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077768. eCollection 2013.


Ethanol is well known to adversely affect frontal executive functioning, which continues to develop throughout adolescence and into young adulthood. This is also a developmental window in which ethanol is misused by a significant number of adolescents. We examined the effects of acute and chronic ethanol exposure during adolescence on behavioral inhibition and efficiency using a modified water maze task. During acquisition, rats were trained to find a stable visible platform onto which they could escape. During the test phase, the stable platform was converted to a visible floating platform (providing no escape) and a new hidden platform was added in the opposite quadrant. The hidden platform was the only means of escape during the test phase. In experiment 1, adolescent animals received ethanol (1.0 g/kg) 30 min before each session during the test phase. In experiment 2, adolescent animals received chronic intermittent ethanol (5.0 g/kg) for 16 days (PND30 To PND46) prior to any training in the maze. At PND72, training was initiated in the same modified water maze task. Results from experiment 1 indicated that acute ethanol promoted behavioral disinhibition and inefficiency. Experiment 2 showed that chronic intermittent ethanol during adolescence appeared to have no lasting effect on behavioral disinhibition or new spatial learning during adulthood. However, chronic ethanol did promote behavioral inefficiency. In summary, results indicate that ethanol-induced promotion of perseverative behavior may contribute to the many adverse behavioral sequelae of alcohol intoxication in adolescents and young adults. Moreover, the long-term effect of adolescent chronic ethanol exposure on behavioral efficiency is similar to that observed after chronic exposure in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Ethanol