Ethanol modulation of synaptic plasticity

Brian A McCool


Synaptic plasticity in the most general terms represents the flexibility of neurotransmission in response to neuronal activity. Synaptic plasticity is essential both for the moment-by-moment modulation of neural activity in response to dynamic environmental cues and for long-term learning and memory formation. These temporal characteristics are served by an array of pre- and post-synaptic mechanisms that are frequently modulated by ethanol exposure. This modulation likely makes significant contributions to both alcohol abuse and dependence. In this review, I discuss the modulation of both short-term and long-term synaptic plasticity in the context of specific ethanol-sensitive cellular substrates. A general discussion of the available preclinical, animal-model based neurophysiology literature provides a comparison between results from in vitro and in vivo studies. Finally, in the context of alcohol abuse and dependence, the review proposes potential behavioral contributions by ethanol modulation of plasticity.


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