Differential effects of ethanol on memory in adolescent and adult rats

Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 1998 Apr;22(2):416-21.


Previous studies have shown that ethanol inhibits memory-related synaptic activity and plasticity more potently in hippocampal slices from immature rats, compared with those taken from adults. We therefore hypothesized that ethanol would more potently attenuate the acquisition of spatial memory in adolescents, compared with adult rats. Adult (65 days of age) and adolescent (30 days of age) male rats were given five daily trials on a spatial memory task in a Morris Water Maze. The animals from each age group were subdivided into three subgroups. Each day, thirty minutes before training, the animals in each subgroup were given an intraperitoneal injection of 1.0 g/kg of ethanol, 2.0 g/kg of ethanol, or the saline vehicle. Training continued daily until the control animals had reached a performance criterion. Ethanol treatment significantly impaired spatial memory acquisition in the adolescent rats, but did not impair acquisition in adult rats. A separate experiment with identical treatment groups showed that ethanol did not impair acquisition of a nonspatial memory task in the water maze in animals from either age group. These experiments show that the acquisition of spatial, but not nonspatial, memory is more potently impaired by ethanol in adolescent animals, compared with adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / drug effects*
  • Animals
  • Discrimination Learning / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Escape Reaction / drug effects
  • Ethanol / toxicity*
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Mental Recall / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Orientation / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects


  • Ethanol