Repeated Binge-like ethanol drinking alters ethanol drinking patterns and depresses striatal GABAergic transmission

Mark V. Wilcox, Verginia C.Cuzon Carlson, Nyssa Sherazee, Gretchen M. Sprow, Roland Bock, Todd E. Thiele, David M. Lovinger, Veronica A. Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Repeated cycles of binge alcohol drinking and abstinence are key components in the development of dependence. However, the precise behavioral mechanisms underlying binge-like drinking and its consequences on striatal synaptic physiology remain unclear. In the present study, ethanol and water drinking patterns were recorded with high temporal resolution over 6 weeks of binge-like ethanol drinking using the 'drinking in the dark' (DID) protocol. The bottle exchange occurring at the beginning of each session prompted a transient increase in the drinking rate that might facilitate the acquisition of ethanol binge-like drinking. Ethanol drinking mice also displayed a 'front-loading' behavior, in which the highest rate of drinking was recorded during the first 15 min. This rate increased over weeks and paralleled the mild escalation of blood ethanol concentrations. GABAergic and glutamatergic transmission in the dorsal striatum were examined following DID. Spontaneous glutamatergic transmission and the density of dendritic spines were unchanged after ethanol drinking. However, the frequency of GABAA receptor-mediated inhibitory postsynaptic currents was depressed in medium spiny neurons of ethanol drinking mice. A history of ethanol drinking also increased ethanol preference and altered the acute ethanol effects on GABAergic transmission differentially in dorsolateral and dorsomedial striatum. Together, the study shows that the bottle exchange during DID promotes fast, voluntary ethanol drinking and that this intermittent pattern of ethanol drinking causes a depression of GABAergic transmission in the dorsal striatum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-594
Number of pages16
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • alcohol
  • dendritic spines
  • dopamine
  • dorsolateral striatum
  • drinking in the dark
  • striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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