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1.  Alcohol Binge Drinking during Adolescence or Dependence during Adulthood Reduces Prefrontal Myelin in Male Rats 
The Journal of Neuroscience  2014;34(44):14777-14782.
Teen binge drinking is associated with low frontal white matter integrity and increased risk of alcoholism in adulthood. This neuropathology may result from alcohol exposure or reflect a pre-existing condition in people prone to addiction. Here we used rodent models with documented clinical relevance to adolescent binge drinking and alcoholism in humans to test whether alcohol damages myelinated axons of the prefrontal cortex. In Experiment 1, outbred male Wistar rats self-administered sweetened alcohol or sweetened water intermittently for 2 weeks during early adolescence. In adulthood, drinking behavior was tested under nondependent conditions or after dependence induced by 1 month of alcohol vapor intoxication/withdrawal cycles, and prefrontal myelin was examined 1 month into abstinence. Adolescent binge drinking or adult dependence induction reduced the size of the anterior branches of the corpus callosum, i.e., forceps minor (CCFM), and this neuropathology correlated with higher relapse-like drinking in adulthood. Degraded myelin basic protein in the gray matter medial to the CCFM of binge rats indicated myelin was damaged on axons in the mPFC. In follow-up studies we found that binge drinking reduced myelin density in the mPFC in adolescent rats (Experiment 2) and heavier drinking predicted worse performance on the T-maze working memory task in adulthood (Experiment 3). These findings establish a causal role of voluntary alcohol on myelin and give insight into specific prefrontal axons that are both sensitive to alcohol and could contribute to the behavioral and cognitive impairments associated with early onset drinking and alcoholism.
PMCID: PMC4212071  PMID: 25355229
adolescent; alcohol; binge; dependence; myelin; prefrontal
2.  Social Status and Sex Effects on Neural Morphology in Damaraland Mole-Rats, Fukomys damarensis 
Brain, Behavior and Evolution  2011;77(4):291-298.
We previously reported that in a eusocial rodent, the naked mole-rat (Heterocephalus glaber), traditional neural sex differences were absent; instead, neural dimorphisms were associated with breeding status. Here we examined the same neural regions previously studied in naked mole-rats in a second eusocial species, the Damaraland mole-rat (Fukomys damarensis). Damaraland mole-rats live in social groups with breeding restricted to a small number of animals. However, colony sizes are much smaller in Damaraland mole-rats than in naked mole-rats and there is consequently less reproductive skew. In this sense, Damaraland mole-rats may be considered intermediate in social organization between naked mole-rats and more traditional laboratory rodents. We report that, as in naked mole-rats, breeding Damaraland mole-rats have larger volumes of the principal nucleus of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus than do subordinates, with no effect of sex on these measures. Thus, these structures may play special roles in breeders of eusocial species. However, in contrast to what was seen in naked mole-rats, we also found sex differences in Damaraland mole-rats: volume of the medial amygdala and motoneuron number in Onuf's nucleus were both greater in males than in females, with no significant effect of breeding status. Thus, both sex and breeding status influence neural morphology in Damaraland mole-rats. These findings are in accord with the observed sex differences in body weight and genitalia in Damaraland but not naked mole-rats. We hypothesize that the increased sexual dimorphism in Damaraland mole-rats relative to naked mole-rats is related to reduced reproductive skew.
PMCID: PMC3182041  PMID: 21701152
Bed nucleus of the stria terminalis; Damaraland mole-rat; Medial amygdala; Naked mole-rat; Onuf's nucleus; Paraventricular nucleus; Sex difference; Social status

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