Interstrain differences in adolescent fear conditioning after acute alcohol exposure

Laurel R. Seemiller, Lisa R. Goldberg, Prescilla Garcia-Trevizo, Thomas J. Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescent sensitivity to alcohol is a predictor of continued alcohol use and misuse later in life. Thus, it is important to understand the many factors that can impact alcohol sensitivity. Data from our laboratory suggested that susceptibility to alcohol-associated contextual fear learning deficits varied among adolescent and adult mice from two mouse strains. To investigate the extent of genetic background's influences on adolescent learning after alcohol exposure, we examined how 9 inbred mouse strains differed in vulnerability to alcohol-induced contextual and cued fear conditioning deficits. We demonstrated significant strain- and sex-dependent effects of acute alcohol exposure on adolescent fear learning, with alcohol having most pronounced effects on contextual fear learning. Female adolescents were more susceptible than males to alcohol-induced impairments in contextual, but not cued, fear learning, independent of genetic background. Heritability for contextual and cued fear learning after alcohol exposure was estimated to be 31 % and 18 %, respectively. Learning data were compared to Blood Ethanol Concentrations (BEC) to assess whether strain differences in alcohol metabolism contributed to strain differences in learning after alcohol exposure. There were no clear relationships between BEC and learning outcomes, suggesting that strains differed in learning outcomes for reasons other than strain differences in alcohol metabolism. Genetic analyses revealed polymorphisms across strains in notable genes, such as Chrna7, a promising genetic candidate for susceptibility to alcohol-induced fear conditioning deficits. These results are the first to demonstrate the impact of genetic background on alcohol-associated fear learning deficits during adolescence and suggest that the mechanisms underlying this sensitivity are distinct from alcohol metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
JournalBrain Research Bulletin
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


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