The objective of this proposal is to evaluate cumulative brain damage and the potential for exercise neurorestoration in a rat model of an alcohol use disorder (AUD), which conforms to NIAAA's mission to improve the treatment of AUDs. Binge alcohol consumption impairs cognition and damages the brain by promoting cell death and inhibiting neurogenesis. Exercise, on the other hand, enhances brain health and function. Because binge drinking is a pattern of consumption, and thus by definition occurs repeatedly, this proposal will determine whether exercise can restore the brain after repeated binge episodes. Evidence suggests that repair attempts occur in the brain after a single binge. It is possible that if successive binges occur during ongoing repair attempts, they will not only independently cause damage, but also suppress efforts to repair damage caused by the previous binge. Our proposed experiments will test this hypothesis by timing subsequent binges to overlap with brain repair attempts, and quantify cumulative damage and resulting cognitive impairment. We will assess cognitive impairment both early and chronically after the last binge. We hypothesize that cognitive dysfunction will become more severe and more lasting with increasing binge episodes. Finally, we will determine whether post-binge exercise can ameliorate cumulative brain damage and cognitive dysfunction by allowing abstinent rats to exercise post-binge. We have previously shown that exercise is neuroprotective against damage incurred by a subsequent binge episode. We hypothesize that post-binge exercise will enhance natural brain repair processes during abstinence, resulting in reduced cognitive dysfunction compared to sedentary binge-exposed animals. This application is relevant to public health because it will determine whether exercise could be a useful component of treatment programs aimed at reducing the negative neural and functional consequences of binge alcohol consumption.

Public Health Relevance

This application is relevant to public health because it will determine the effects of exercise on brain and behavior in a model of binge alcohol consumption. Binge drinking causes brain damage and cognitive dysfunction and increases the risk of dementia later in life. Given that binge drinking is common in the United States, there is significant need to develop effective treatments to ameliorate binge-induced brain injury and cognitive impairments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Biomedical Research Review Subcommittee (AA)
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Regunathan, Soundar
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University of Houston
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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West, Rebecca K; Maynard, Mark E; Leasure, J Leigh (2018) Binge ethanol effects on prefrontal cortex neurons, spatial working memory and task-induced neuronal activation in male and female rats. Physiol Behav 188:79-85
Maynard, Mark E; Barton, Emily A; Robinson, Caleb R et al. (2018) Sex differences in hippocampal damage, cognitive impairment, and trophic factor expression in an animal model of an alcohol use disorder. Brain Struct Funct 223:195-210
Barton, Emily A; Lu, Yanbin; Megjhani, Murad et al. (2017) Binge alcohol alters exercise-driven neuroplasticity. Neuroscience 343:165-173
Barton, Emily A; Baker, Cassandra; Leasure, J Leigh (2017) Investigation of Sex Differences in the Microglial Response to Binge Ethanol and Exercise. Brain Sci 7:
Leigh Leasure, J; West, Rebecca (2016) Can the Brain Benefits of Exercise Be Enhanced Without Additional Exercise? J Neurol Neuromedicine 1:37-40
Leasure, J Leigh; Neighbors, Clayton; Henderson, Craig E et al. (2015) Exercise and Alcohol Consumption: What We Know, What We Need to Know, and Why it is Important. Front Psychiatry 6:156