Ethanol Inhibits Spontaneous Activity Of Central Nucleus Of The Amygdala Neurons But Does Not Impair Retention In The Passive-Avoidance Task

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Alcoholism: Clinical And Experimental Research


Keywords: Inhibitory Avoidance;Memory;In Vivo;Electrophysiology Background: Behavioral studies using pharmacological manipulations that increase neuronal activity of the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) have implicated the CeA in enhancement of memory modulation. To date, however, there has been a dearth of studies investigating the effect of a drug that decreases CeA activity on memory modulation—a drug that inhibits the neuronal activity of the CeA might be expected to impair memory modulation. To determine whether ethanol inhibits CeA activity and, if so, whether decreased CeA activity is associated with impairment of memory modulation, this study investigated the effect of ethanol on spontaneous single-unit activity of CeA neurons and retention in the passive-avoidance task. Methods: The effect of ethanol (0.35, 0.75, 1.5, 2.5 g/kg) was determined on spontaneously firing neurons in the CeA in urethane-anesthetized rats by use of standard in vivo single-unit electrophysiological recording techniques. Additionally, the effect of ethanol when administered immediately after training in a standard passive-avoidance task was determined on retention the following day. Results: Ethanol profoundly inhibited spontaneous CeA firing rates in urethane-anesthetized rats at all doses tested. Maximal inhibition was related to dose. Each dose of ethanol significantly inhibited CeA activity within 15 min of administration; within 35 min of administration, 0.75 g/kg of ethanol inhibited CeA activity by 65.2%, and the highest dose (2.5 g/kg) produced nearly complete suppression of CeA activity (81.3%). Although ethanol markedly inhibited CeA activity, these same doses of ethanol failed to impair retention in the passive-avoidance task: 0.35, 0.75, 1.5, and 2.5 g/kg of ethanol, administered immediately after training, failed to alter latency to step-through the following day. Conclusions: These results show that ethanol profoundly inhibits spontaneous CeA activity and suggest that inhibition of the CeA is not sufficient to impair retention in the passive-avoidance task.