Adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure: Effects on pubertal development, novelty seeking, and social interaction in adulthood.


Developmental Exposure Alcohol Research Center, Center for Development and Behavioral Neuroscience, Department of Psychology, Binghamton University, Binghamton, NY 13902-6000, United States. Electronic address: [Email]


Alcohol use initiated early in adolescence is a major predictor for the development of alcohol use disorders. This risk may be increased when drinking is initiated around the time of puberty, given evidence of bidirectional relationships between alcohol and gonadal hormones. The current study examined the effects of adolescent intermittent ethanol exposure (AIE) on pubertal timing and expression of novelty-seeking and peer-directed behaviors as well as neural correlates of these behaviors. AIE did not affect pubertal timing or the later expression of novelty-seeking and peer-directed behaviors. AIE increased corticosterone (CORT) levels in females not tested behaviorally in adulthood or tested in the novel-object exploration paradigm, whereas social interaction blunted CORT levels in AIE females. Delays in pubertal timing and decreases in CORT levels were correlated, however, with increased novelty seeking in adult males - a phenotype associated with increased addiction vulnerability. In females, social testing elevated oxytocin receptor (OXTR) mRNA expression in the central amygdala (CeA), with this social testing-associated elevation evident in the lateral septum (LS), regardless of sex. Vasopressin receptor 1a (AVP-1aR) mRNA expression in the CeA was enhanced by social testing in females, but not males, with expression of this gene suppressed by social testing in the LS in males, but not females. Together, these data demonstrate that behavioral and neural alterations that may serve as risk factors in later drug vulnerabilities are likely not the result of a single insult, but may reflect interactions among several variables including sex, pubertal timing, stress reactivity, and test circumstances.


Adolescence,Behavioral alterations,Corticosterone,Intermittent ethanol exposure,Neuropeptides,Puberty,