Neurology Central

Females suffering concussion in adolescence could be at higher risk for alcohol abuse in adulthood

New research carried out at the Ohio State University (OH, USA) found that female mice with a mild closed-head brain injury were more likely to associate drinking with reward and pleasure, leading to alcohol dependency in adulthood. The findings, which were not upheld in male mice, were published recently in the Journal of Neurotrauma.

Intoxication is the direct or indirect cause for up to half of all mild traumatic brain injuries. In addition alcohol use following an injury can delay rehabilitation as well as increase the chances of developing further injuries.

Using mice as a test subject, the researchers caused concussive head injury at 21 days old, the equivalent of between 6 and 12 years old in humans. Following this, the mice were given the option to choose between two bottles, one containing just water and the other escalating doses of ethanol diluted in water. Female adult mice that had received this concussive bump drank significantly more ethanol than the uninjured control group, whilst male mice showed no significant difference in drinking behavior.

The study went on to show that this effect was reversible. Female mice that were living in an enriched environment;bigger cages with running wheels, toys and tunnels, did not exhibit an increased amount of alcohol self-administration and also showed reduced axon damage in their brains of approximately 40%.

Zachary Weil, lead author of the study, commented: “The best therapy for a childhood brain injury is everybody getting great medical care and rehabilitation, regardless of socioeconomic status…people with juvenile head injuries are already at risk for memory problems, difficulty concentrating, poor learning and reduced impulse control. If we can prevent alcohol misuse, chances for a good life are much better.”

Currently there is a lack of research evaluating how and why the effects of brain injuries are different between men and women.Weil therefore plans to follow-up this study by investigating whether specific hormones are responsible for this difference in alcoholism risk following TBI between the sexes.

Sources: The Ohio State University press release; Weil ZM, Karelina K, Gaier KR, Corrigan TED, Corrigan JD. Juvenile Traumatic Brain Injury Increases Alcohol Consumption and Reward in Female Mice. J.Neurotrauma doi 10.1089/neu.2015.3953 (2015) (Epub ahead of print).