Adolescent alcohol drinking, primarily in the form of binge-drinking episodes, is a serious public health concern. Binge drinking in laboratory animals has been modeled by a procedure involving chronic intermittent ethanol (CIE) administration, as compared with chronic intermittent water (CIW). The prolonged effects of adolescent binge alcohol exposure in adults, such as high risk of developing alcohol use disorder, are severe but available treatments in the clinic are limited. One reason is the lack of sufficient understanding about the associated neuronal alterations. The involvement of the insular cortex, particularly the anterior agranular insula (AAI), has emerged as a critical region to explain neuronal mechanisms of substance abuse. This study was designed to evaluate the functional output of the AAI by measuring the intrinsic excitability of pyramidal neurons from male rats 2 or 21 days after adolescent or adult CIE treatment. Decreases in intrinsic excitability in AAI pyramidal neurons were detected 21 days, relative to 2 days, after adolescent CIE. Interestingly, the decreased intrinsic excitability in the AAI pyramidal neurons was observed 2 days after adult CIE, compared to adult CIW, but no difference was found between 2 versus 21 days after adult CIE. These data indicate that, although the AAI is influenced within a limited period after adult but not adolescent CIE, neuronal alterations in AAI are affected during the prolonged period of withdrawal from adolescent but not adult CIE. This may explain the prolonged vulnerability to mental disorders of subjects with an alcohol binge history during their adolescent stage.
Keywords: adolescent; chronic intermittent ethanol; insular cortex; intrinsic excitability; whole-cell patch clamp.
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