Adolescent alcohol exposure and persistence of adolescent-typical phenotypes into adulthood: a mini-review

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2014 Sep:45:1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2014.04.012. Epub 2014 May 9.


Alcohol use is typically initiated during adolescence, which, along with young adulthood, is a vulnerable period for the onset of high-risk drinking and alcohol abuse. Given across-species commonalities in certain fundamental neurobehavioral characteristics of adolescence, studies in laboratory animals such as the rat have proved useful to assess persisting consequences of repeated alcohol exposure. Despite limited research to date, reports of long-lasting effects of adolescent ethanol exposure are emerging, along with certain common themes. One repeated finding is that adolescent exposure to ethanol sometimes results in the persistence of adolescent-typical phenotypes into adulthood. Instances of adolescent-like persistence have been seen in terms of baseline behavioral, cognitive, electrophysiological and neuroanatomical characteristics, along with the retention of adolescent-typical sensitivities to acute ethanol challenge. These effects are generally not observed after comparable ethanol exposure in adulthood. Persistence of adolescent-typical phenotypes is not always evident, and may be related to regionally specific ethanol influences on the interplay between CNS excitation and inhibition critical for the timing of neuroplasticity.

Keywords: Adolescent; Behavior; Cognitive; Electrophysiological; Ethanol; Neural; Persisting effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / drug effects*
  • Alcohol Drinking / physiopathology
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Alcoholism / physiopathology
  • Alcoholism / psychology*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / physiology
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / pharmacology*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol