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Neonatal ethanol produces cerebellar deep nuclear cell loss and correlated disruption of eyeblink conditioning in adult rats

, : Neonatal ethanol produces cerebellar deep nuclear cell loss and correlated disruption of eyeblink conditioning in adult rats. Brain Research 956(2): 302-311, 29 November

Binge-like neonatal exposure to ethanol (EtOH) in rats, during the period of brain development comparable to that of the human third trimester, produces significant, dose-dependent Purkinje cell loss in the cerebellum and deficits in eyeblink classical conditioning. There are currently no published reports of whether neuronal loss in the cerebellar deep nuclei also results from binge-like neonatal exposure to EtOH and what the functional consequences of any cell loss might be. Since eyeblink conditioning requires cerebellar deep nuclear cells for normal learning to occur, we examined the effects of binge-like neonatal EtOH exposure on the total number of deep nuclear cells and eyeblink conditioning in adult rats. Group Ethanol (n=11) received EtOH doses of 5.25 g/kg/day on postnatal days 4-9, producing average peak blood alcohol concentrations of 363 mg/dl. Group Sham Intubated (n=11) underwent acute intragastric intubation on postnatal days 4-9 but did not receive any EtOH infusions. Group Unintubated Control (n=10) did not receive any intubations. When rats were at least 3 months old, they received either paired eyeblink conditioning or unpaired training. Following training, estimates of the total number of cerebellar deep nuclear cells were obtained using the optical fractionator, an unbiased stereological counting procedure. Rats in Group Ethanol had approximately 50% fewer deep nuclear cells compared to rats in Groups Sham Intubated and Unintubated Control, which did not differ. For 21 rats that received paired eyeblink conditioning, a highly significant correlation (+0.80) was found between the number of deep nuclear cells and learning rate in eyeblink conditioning.


PMID: 12445699

DOI: 10.1016/s0006-8993(02)03561-8

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