Effects of environmental enrichment upon ethanol-induced conditioned place preference and pre-frontal BDNF levels in adolescent and adult mice.

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Environmental enrichment (EE) provides a non-pharmacological tool to alter drug-induced reward, yet its effects on ethanol-induced reward remain controversial. We analyzed adolescent vs. adult (mice) differences in the influence of EE on ethanol-induced conditioned place preference (CPP). The effects of these treatments on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels in the prefrontal cortex were examined in a separate group of animals. Ethanol-induced CPP was found in adults, and it was similar in EE and in animals reared under standard housing conditions (SC). Adolescents kept under EE, but not those in SC, exhibited CPP. Among SC, but not among EE, adolescents, BDNF levels were significantly lower in those treated with ethanol than in those given vehicle. These results indicate that, compared to adults, adolescent exhibited reduced sensitivity to ethanol's rewarding effects, yet the youth but not the adults exhibited sensitivity to the promoting effect of EE upon CPP by ethanol. Ethanol significantly reduced BDNF levels in adolescents reared under standard housing conditions, but not in adult mice nor in adolescents given EE housing conditions. The present results add to the plethora of adolescent-specific responses to ethanol or to environmental stimuli that may put the youth at risk for escalation of ethanol intake.

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