Alcohol use disorder is a significant global burden. Stress has been identified as an etiological factor in the initiation and continuation of ethanol consumption. Understanding adaptations within stress circuitry is an important step toward novel treatment strategies. The effects of protracted abstinence following long-term ethanol self-administration on the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) and the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) were evaluated in male rhesus monkeys. Using whole-cell patch-clamp electrophysiology, inhibitory GABAergic transmission in the CeA and excitatory glutamatergic transmission in the PVN were measured. CeA neurons from abstinent drinkers displayed an elevated baseline spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic current (sIPSC) frequency compared with controls, indicating increased presynaptic GABA release. Application of acute ethanol significantly increased the frequency of sIPSCs in controls, but not in abstinent drinkers, suggesting a tolerance to ethanol-enhanced GABA release in abstinent rhesus monkeys with a history of chronic ethanol self-administration and repeated abstinence. In the PVN, the frequency of spontaneous excitatory postsynaptic currents (sEPSC) was elevated in abstinent drinkers compared with controls, indicating increased presynaptic glutamate release. Notably, acute ethanol decreased presynaptic glutamate release onto parvocellular PVN neurons in both controls and abstinent drinkers, suggesting a lack of tolerance to acute ethanol among PVN neurons. These results are the first to demonstrate distinct synaptic adaptations and ethanol sensitivity in both the extrahypothalamic and hypothalamic stress circuits in abstinent rhesus males. Importantly, our findings describe adaptations in stress circuitry present in the brain at a state during abstinence, just prior to relapse to ethanol drinking.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health