Acute alcohol produces ataxia and cognitive impairments in aged animals : a comparison between young adults and aged rats.
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Aging in both humans and rodents appears to be accompanied by physiological changes that increase biological sensitivity to ethanol intoxication; however, animal models designed to investigate the behavioral significance of increased alcohol sensitivity have yet to be established. The present study sought to determine if acute ethanol administration produces differential effects on motor coordination and spatial performance in adult and aged rats. Findings revealed a dramatic increase in ethanol induced ataxia and cognitive impairment in aged animals relative to young adults as evaluated by several behavioral tasks. Importantly, the heightened deficits seen in aged animals were not due to differential blood ethanol levels. Possible neurophysiological mechanisms are proposed to explain the age-related increase in sensitivity to motor- and cognitive-impairing effects of ethanol. Given the high prevalence of alcohol use among the elderly, increased vulnerability to alcohol-induced deficits may have a profound effect on injury and quality of life in this population.