Adolescence is a conserved developmental period characterized by ontogenetic alterations in brain and behavior that often bear notable similarities across species, including increases in peer-directed social behaviors, risk-taking, as well as elevated per occasion use of alcohol. Studies using a rodent model of adolescence have shown that, seemingly due in part to age differences in brain function and in expression of acute tolerance, adolescents are more resistant than are adults to alcohol effects that normally serve as cues to moderate drinking, while conversely showing greater sensitivity to ethanol-induced social stimulation. To the extent that these findings in laboratory animals are relevant to human adolescents, this developmental blending of enhanced/attenuated ethanol sensitivities may encourage relatively high levels of consumption, particularly among adolescents who are otherwise at risk for especially elevated alcohol intake because of genetic or environmentally associated alterations in ethanol sensitivities Such elevated ethanol exposures may lead to adverse consequences among at-risk adolescents that may persist into adulthood. Indeed, our findings to date have revealed certain long-lasting consequences of repeated exposure to ethanol during adolescence that are replicable, specific, and dependent on timing of the ethanol exposure, with early adolescence being perhaps an especially vulnerable period, and comparable exposures in adulthood generally not inducing similar effects.
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