Age-related differences in sensitivity to the acute effects of alcohol may play an important role in the increased risk for the development of alcoholism seen in teens that begin drinking at an early age. The present study evaluated the acute and protracted (hangover) effects of ethanol in adolescent (P33-P40) and adult (P100-P107) Wistar rats, using the cortical electroencephalogram (EEG). Six minutes of EEG was recorded during waking, 15 min after administration of 0, 1.5, or 3.0 g/kg ethanol, and for 3 h at 20 h post ethanol, during the rats' next sleep cycle. Significantly higher overall frontal and parietal cortical power was seen in a wide range of EEG frequencies in adolescent rats as compared to adult rats in their waking EEG. Acute administration of ethanol did not produce differences between adolescents and adults on behavioral measures of acute intoxication. However, it did produce a significantly less intense acute EEG response to ethanol in the theta frequencies in parietal cortex in the adolescents as compared to the adults. At 20 h following acute ethanol administration, during the rats' next sleep cycle, a decrease in slow-wave frequencies (1-4 Hz) was seen and the adolescent rats were found to display more reduction in the slow-wave frequencies than the adults did. The present study found that adolescent rats, as compared to adults, demonstrate low sensitivity to acute ethanol administration in the theta frequencies and more susceptibility to disruption of slow-wave sleep during hangover. These studies may lend support to the idea that these traits may contribute to increased risk for alcohol use disorders seen in adults who begin drinking in their early teenage years.
Keywords: Adolescence; Alcohol; Alcoholism; EEG; Hangover; Slow-wave sleep.
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