Publications by authors named "Marina Spanos"

16 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Pragmatic adaptations of telehealth-delivered caregiver coaching for children with autism in the context of COVID-19: Perspectives from the United States and South Africa.

Autism 2021 Jun 8:13623613211022585. Epub 2021 Jun 8.

Duke University, USA.

Lay Abstract: COVID-19 caused many autism spectrum disorder caregiver-coaching studies to move to telehealth. Telehealth can increase the diversity of people who take part in research. This matters because most autism spectrum disorder studies have included people who have resources, are White, and live in North America and Europe. When study participants are similar, it is hard to understand which interventions can help different types of people who live in different parts of the world. While telehealth may allow more people to take part in research, it needs to "fit" the local context and consider the "digital divide" because many people around the world have no access to computers and the Internet. This short report describes changes to two research studies that include caregiver coaching based on the Early Start Denver Model in the United States and South Africa. We describe how the local context, including technology and Internet access, guided the telehealth approach. By doing so, we highlight ways to make telehealth available to more people around the world. The pandemic can help us understand how telehealth can "fit" diverse places and support high-quality research. It is important that study changes are tracked and we assess how well the changes work. COVID-19 telehealth changes to caregiver coaching can result in new ways to reach more people around the world.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/13623613211022585DOI Listing
June 2021

Computational Methods to Measure Patterns of Gaze in Toddlers With Autism Spectrum Disorder.

JAMA Pediatr 2021 Aug;175(8):827-836

Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.

Importance: Atypical eye gaze is an early-emerging symptom of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and holds promise for autism screening. Current eye-tracking methods are expensive and require special equipment and calibration. There is a need for scalable, feasible methods for measuring eye gaze.

Objective: Using computational methods based on computer vision analysis, we evaluated whether an app deployed on an iPhone or iPad that displayed strategically designed brief movies could elicit and quantify differences in eye-gaze patterns of toddlers with ASD vs typical development.

Design, Setting, And Participants: A prospective study in pediatric primary care clinics was conducted from December 2018 to March 2020, comparing toddlers with and without ASD. Caregivers of 1564 toddlers were invited to participate during a well-child visit. A total of 993 toddlers (63%) completed study measures. Enrollment criteria were aged 16 to 38 months, healthy, English- or Spanish-speaking caregiver, and toddler able to sit and view the app. Participants were screened with the Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers-Revised With Follow-up during routine care. Children were referred by their pediatrician for diagnostic evaluation based on results of the checklist or if the caregiver or pediatrician was concerned. Forty toddlers subsequently were diagnosed with ASD.

Exposures: A mobile app displayed on a smartphone or tablet.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Computer vision analysis quantified eye-gaze patterns elicited by the app, which were compared between toddlers with ASD vs typical development.

Results: Mean age of the sample was 21.1 months (range, 17.1-36.9 months), and 50.6% were boys, 59.8% White individuals, 16.5% Black individuals, 23.7% other race, and 16.9% Hispanic/Latino individuals. Distinctive eye-gaze patterns were detected in toddlers with ASD, characterized by reduced gaze to social stimuli and to salient social moments during the movies, and previously unknown deficits in coordination of gaze with speech sounds. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve discriminating ASD vs non-ASD using multiple gaze features was 0.90 (95% CI, 0.82-0.97).

Conclusions And Relevance: The app reliably measured both known and new gaze biomarkers that distinguished toddlers with ASD vs typical development. These novel results may have potential for developing scalable autism screening tools, exportable to natural settings, and enabling data sets amenable to machine learning.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2021.0530DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8077044PMC
August 2021

A scalable computational approach to assessing response to name in toddlers with autism.

J Child Psychol Psychiatry 2021 Sep 28;62(9):1120-1131. Epub 2021 Feb 28.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA.

Background: This study is part of a larger research program focused on developing objective, scalable tools for digital behavioral phenotyping. We evaluated whether a digital app delivered on a smartphone or tablet using computer vision analysis (CVA) can elicit and accurately measure one of the most common early autism symptoms, namely failure to respond to a name call.

Methods: During a pediatric primary care well-child visit, 910 toddlers, 17-37 months old, were administered an app on an iPhone or iPad consisting of brief movies during which the child's name was called three times by an examiner standing behind them. Thirty-seven toddlers were subsequently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Name calls and children's behavior were recorded by the camera embedded in the device, and children's head turns were coded by both CVA and a human.

Results: CVA coding of response to name was found to be comparable to human coding. Based on CVA, children with ASD responded to their name significantly less frequently than children without ASD. CVA also revealed that children with ASD who did orient to their name exhibited a longer latency before turning their head. Combining information about both the frequency and the delay in response to name improved the ability to distinguish toddlers with and without ASD.

Conclusions: A digital app delivered on an iPhone or iPad in real-world settings using computer vision analysis to quantify behavior can reliably detect a key early autism symptom-failure to respond to name. Moreover, the higher resolution offered by CVA identified a delay in head turn in toddlers with ASD who did respond to their name. Digital phenotyping is a promising methodology for early assessment of ASD symptoms.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jcpp.13381DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8397798PMC
September 2021

Rationale, design, and methods of the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) network Study of Oxytocin in Autism to improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors (SOARS-B).

Contemp Clin Trials 2020 11 8;98:106103. Epub 2020 Aug 8.

Duke Center for Autism and Brain Development, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University, Durham, NC, United States of America.

Objective: To describe the rationale, design, and methods of the Autism Centers of Excellence (ACE) network Study of Oxytocin in Autism to improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors (SOARS-B).

Method: This phase 2 clinical trial was designed to evaluate the use of intranasal oxytocin treatment to improve social difficulties in individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In total, 290 participants ages 3 to 17 years with a DSM-5 diagnosis of ASD were enrolled to receive 24 weeks of treatment with either oxytocin or a matched placebo at one of seven collaborating sites. Participants were subsequently treated with open-label oxytocin for 24 additional weeks. Post-treatment assessments were done approximately 4 weeks after treatment discontinuation. Plasma oxytocin and oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) methylation level were measured at baseline, and week 8, 24 and 36 to explore potential relationships between these biomarkers and treatment response.

Results: This report describes the rationale, design, and methods of the SOARS-B clinical trial.

Conclusions: There is a tremendous unmet need for safe and effective pharmacological treatment options that target the core symptoms of ASD. Several studies support the hypothesis that intranasal oxytocin could improve social orienting and the salience of social rewards in ASD, thereby enhancing reciprocal social behaviors. However, due to conflicting results from a number of pilot studies on the prosocial effects of exogenous oxytocin, this hypothesis remains controversial and inconclusive. SOARS-B is the best powered study to date to address this hypothesis and promises to improve our understanding of the safety and efficacy of intranasal oxytocin in the treatment of social deficits in children with ASD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cct.2020.106103DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7924986PMC
November 2020

Metformin add-on vs. antipsychotic switch vs. continued antipsychotic treatment plus healthy lifestyle education in overweight or obese youth with severe mental illness: results from the IMPACT trial.

World Psychiatry 2020 Feb;19(1):69-80

Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.

Antipsychotics are used for many psychiatric conditions in youth. Although developmentally inappropriate weight gain and metabolic abnormalities, which are risk factors for premature cardiovascular mortality, are especially frequent in youth, optimal strategies to reduce pediatric antipsychotic-induced overweight/obesity are unclear. The Improving Metabolic Parameters in Antipsychotic Child Treatment (IMPACT) was a randomized, parallel group, 24-week clinical trial which enrolled overweight/obese, psychiatrically stable youth, aged 8-19 years, with a DSM-IV diagnosis of severe mental illness (schizophrenia spectrum disorder, bipolar spectrum disorder or psychotic depression), at four US universities. All of them had developed substantial weight gain following treatment with a second-generation antipsychotic. The centralized, computer-based randomization system assigned participants to unmasked treatment groups: metformin (MET); antipsychotic switch (aripiprazole or, if already exposed to that drug, perphenazine or molindone; SWITCH); or continued baseline antipsychotic (CONTROL). All participants received healthy lifestyle education. The primary outcome was body mass index (BMI) z-score change from baseline, analyzed using estimated least squares means. Altogether, 127 participants were randomized: 49 to MET, 31 to SWITCH, and 47 to CONTROL. BMI z-score decreased significantly with MET (week 24: -0.09±0.03, p=0.002) and SWITCH (week 24: -0.11±0.04, p=0.003), while it increased non-significantly with CONTROL (week 24: +0.04±0.03). On 3-way comparison, BMI z-score changes differed significantly (p=0.001). MET and SWITCH were each superior to CONTROL (p=0.002), with effect sizes of 0.68 and 0.81 respectively, while MET and SWITCH did not differ. More gastrointestinal problems occurred in MET than in SWITCH or CONTROL. The data safety monitoring board closed the perphenazine-SWITCH arm because 35.2% of subjects discontinued treatment due to psychiatric worsening. These data suggest that pediatric antipsychotic-related overweight/obesity can be reduced by adding metformin or switching to a lower risk antipsychotic. Healthy lifestyle education is not sufficient to prevent ongoing BMI z-score increase.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wps.20714DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6953545PMC
February 2020

Autism, Psychosis, or Both? Unraveling Complex Patient Presentations.

Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am 2020 01 18;29(1):103-113. Epub 2019 Sep 18.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University School of Medicine, 2608 Erwin Road, Suite 300, Durham, NC 27705, USA.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia spectrum disorders co-occur at elevated rates. Although these conditions are diagnostically distinct, they share multiple clinical features and genetic risk factors. This article describes the epidemiologic features and clinical manifestations of psychosis in individuals with ASDs, while also discussing shared genetic risk factors and affected brain regions. Components of a diagnostic assessment, including a thorough developmental, behavioral, medical, and psychiatric history, will be reviewed. The authors highlight the manifestations of catatonia in this population and note the shared features between catatonia and ASDs. Finally, treatment approaches and areas for future study are suggested.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2019.08.003DOI Listing
January 2020

NMDA Receptor-Dependent Cholinergic Modulation of Mesolimbic Dopamine Cell Bodies: Neurochemical and Behavioral Studies.

ACS Chem Neurosci 2019 03 21;10(3):1497-1505. Epub 2018 Nov 21.

Department of Chemistry , North Carolina State University , Raleigh , North Carolina 27695-8204 , United States.

Substance abuse disorders are devastating, costly, and difficult to treat. Identifying the neurochemical mechanisms underlying reinforcement promises to provide critical information in the development of effective treatments. Several lines of evidence suggest that striatal dopamine (DA) release serves as a teaching signal in reinforcement learning, and that shifts in DA release from the primary reward to reward-predicting stimuli play a critical role in the self-administration of both natural and non-natural rewards. However, far less is known about the reinforcing effects of motivationally neutral sensory stimuli, or how these signals can facilitate self-administration behavior. Thus, we trained rats ( n = 7) to perform a visual stimulus-induced instrumental task, which involved lever pressing for activation of a stimulus light. We then microinfused vehicle (phosphate buffered saline), carbachol (acetylcholine receptor agonist), or carbachol in the presence of an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor-specific drug (NMDA itself, or the antagonist, AP5) into the ventral tegmental area (VTA). This enabled us to directly evaluate how chemical modulation of dopamine cell bodies affects the instrumental behavior, as well as the nature of extracellular dopamine transients recorded in the nucleus accumbens shell (NAc shell) using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV). Intra-VTA infusion of carbachol enhanced the magnitude and frequency of dopamine transients in the NAc shell and potentiated active lever responding without altering inactive lever responding, as compared to infusion of vehicle. Coinfusion of carbachol with AP5 abolished dopamine transients recorded in the NAc and attenuated active lever responding without altering inactive lever responding. Finally, coadministration of carbachol and NMDA into the VTA restored both lever pressing and dopaminergic signals recorded in the striatum. Together, these results suggest that acetylcholine and glutamate synergistically act at dopamine cells in the VTA to modulate VTA-NAc shell dopaminergic output, and this underlies motivation to lever press for a motivationally neutral visual stimulus.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acschemneuro.8b00492DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6521841PMC
March 2019

A Review of Methods for Monitoring Adverse Events in Pediatric Psychopharmacology Clinical Trials.

Drug Saf 2018 May;41(5):465-471

Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, USA.

Pediatric psychotropic prescription rates are rising, emphasizing the need for careful monitoring of drug safety in this population. Currently, no standardized assessments are used in clinical trials for adverse event (AE) elicitation focused on long-term drug treatment in pediatric patients. Despite a lack of standardized AE elicitation methods in psychiatric clinical trials, it is clear that psychiatric medications have developmentally dependent AEs that differ from those observed in adults. In this review, we discuss the use of general inquiry elicitation, drug-specific checklists, and systematic elicitation scales for AE reporting in pediatric psychopharmacology trials. The checklists evaluated include the Barkley Side Effect Rating Scales (SERS), the Pittsburg side effect rating scale, and the Systematic Monitoring of Adverse events Related to TreatmentS (SMARTS) checklist. The systematic assessment scales discussed include the Systematic Assessment for Treatment of Emergent Events (SAFTEE) and the Safety Monitoring Uniform Report Form (SMURF). We review the advantages and disadvantages of each method and discuss the need for optimal assessment of AEs. AE instruments that are created and utilized for pediatric psychiatric trials must begin to incorporate symptoms that are relevant to this population and account for the nature of the disorders to better characterize treatment-emergent AEs and monitor long-term safety.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s40264-017-0633-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938315PMC
May 2018

Comparison of the adolescent and adult mouse prefrontal cortex proteome.

PLoS One 2017 1;12(6):e0178391. Epub 2017 Jun 1.

Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States of America.

Adolescence is a developmental period characterized by unique behavioral phenotypes (increased novelty seeking, risk taking, sociability and impulsivity) and increased risk for destructive behaviors, impaired decision making and psychiatric illness. Adaptive and maladaptive adolescent traits have been associated with development of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), a brain region that mediates regulatory control of behavior. However, the molecular changes that underlie brain development and behavioral vulnerability have not been fully characterized. Using high-throughput 2D DIGE spot profiling with identification by MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, we identified 62 spots in the PFC that exhibited age-dependent differences in expression. Identified proteins were associated with diverse cellular functions, including intracellular signaling, synaptic plasticity, cellular organization and metabolism. Separate Western blot analyses confirmed age-related changes in DPYSL2, DNM1, STXBP1 and CFL1 in the mPFC and expanded these findings to the dorsal striatum, nucleus accumbens, motor cortex, amygdala and ventral tegmental area. Ingenuity Pathway Analysis (IPA) identified functional interaction networks enriched with proteins identified in the proteomics screen, linking age-related alterations in protein expression to cellular assembly and development, cell signaling and behavior, and psychiatric illness. These results provide insight into potential molecular components of adolescent cortical development, implicating structural processes that begin during embryonic development as well as plastic adaptations in signaling that may work in concert to bring the cortex, and other brain regions, into maturity.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0178391PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453624PMC
September 2017

Moderate Alcohol Drinking and the Amygdala Proteome: Identification and Validation of Calcium/Calmodulin Dependent Kinase II and AMPA Receptor Activity as Novel Molecular Mechanisms of the Positive Reinforcing Effects of Alcohol.

Biol Psychiatry 2016 Mar 31;79(6):430-42. Epub 2014 Oct 31.

Departments of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Departments of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Departments of Curriculum in Neurobiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Electronic address:

Background: Despite worldwide consumption of moderate amounts of alcohol, the neural mechanisms that mediate the transition from use to abuse are not fully understood.

Methods: Here, we conducted a high-throughput screen of the amygdala proteome in mice after moderate alcohol drinking (n = 12/group) followed by behavioral studies (n = 6-8/group) to uncover novel molecular mechanisms of the positive reinforcing properties of alcohol that strongly influence the development of addiction.

Results: Two-dimensional difference in-gel electrophoresis with matrix assisted laser desorption ionization tandem time-of-flight identified 29 differentially expressed proteins in the amygdala of nondependent C57BL/6J mice following 24 days of alcohol drinking. Alcohol-sensitive proteins included calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II alpha (CaMKIIα) and a network of functionally linked proteins that regulate neural plasticity and glutamate-mediated synaptic activity. Accordingly, alcohol drinking increased α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isooxazole receptor (AMPAR) in central amygdala (CeA) and phosphorylation of AMPAR GluA1 subunit at a CaMKII locus (GluA1-Ser831) in CeA and lateral amygdala. Further, CaMKIIα-Thr286 and GluA1-Ser831 phosphorylation was increased in CeA and lateral amygdala of mice that lever-pressed for alcohol versus the nondrug reinforcer sucrose. Mechanistic studies showed that targeted pharmacologic inhibition of amygdala CaMKII or AMPAR activity specifically inhibited the positive reinforcing properties of alcohol but not sucrose.

Conclusions: Moderate alcohol drinking increases the activity and function of plasticity-linked protein networks in the amygdala that regulate the positive reinforcing effects of the drug. Given the prominence of positive reinforcement in the etiology of addiction, we propose that alcohol-induced adaptations in CaMKIIα and AMPAR signaling in the amygdala may serve as a molecular gateway from use to abuse.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.10.020DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4417085PMC
March 2016

Quantitation of hydrogen peroxide fluctuations and their modulation of dopamine dynamics in the rat dorsal striatum using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry.

ACS Chem Neurosci 2013 May 24;4(5):782-9. Epub 2013 Apr 24.

Chemistry Department, North Carolina State University , Raleigh, NC 27695-8204, United States.

The dopaminergic neurons of the nigrostriatal dopamine (DA) projection from the substantia nigra to the dorsal striatum become dysfunctional and slowly degenerate in Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disorder that afflicts more than one million Americans. There is no specific known cause for idiopathic Parkinson's disease; however, multiple lines of evidence implicate oxidative stress as an underlying factor in both the initiation and progression of the disease. This involves the enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species, including hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), whose role in complex biological processes is not well understood. Using fast-scan cyclic voltammetry at bare carbon-fiber microelectrodes, we have simultaneously monitored and quantified H2O2 and DA fluctuations in intact striatal tissue under basal conditions and in response to the initiation of oxidative stress. Furthermore, we have assessed the effect of acute increases in local H2O2 concentration on both electrically evoked DA release and basal DA levels. Increases in endogenous H2O2 in the dorsal striatum attenuated electrically evoked DA release, and also decreased basal DA levels in this brain region. These novel results will help to disambiguate the chemical mechanisms underlying the progression of neurodegenerative disease states, such as Parkinson's disease, that involve oxidative stress.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/cn4000499DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3656754PMC
May 2013

Increased sensitivity to alcohol induced changes in ERK Map kinase phosphorylation and memory disruption in adolescent as compared to adult C57BL/6J mice.

Behav Brain Res 2012 Apr 13;230(1):158-66. Epub 2012 Feb 13.

Neurobiology Curriculum, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Thurston-Bowles Building, CB #7178, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, United States.

Adolescence is a critical period of brain development that is accompanied by increased probability of risky behavior, such as alcohol use. Emerging research indicates that adolescents are differentially sensitive to the behavioral effects of acute ethanol as compared to adults but the neurobiological mechanisms of this effect remain to be fully elucidated. This study was designed to evaluate effects of acute ethanol on extracellular signal-regulated kinase phosphorylation (p-ERK1/2) in mesocorticolimbic brain regions. We also sought to determine if age-specific effects of ethanol on p-ERK1/2 are associated with ethanol-induced behavioral deficits on acquisition of the hippocampal-dependent novel object recognition (NOR) test. Adolescent and adult C57BL/6J mice were administered acute ethanol (0 0.5, 1, or 3g/kg, i.p.). Brains were removed 30-min post injection and processed for analysis of p-ERK1/2 immunoreactivity (IR). Additional groups of mice were administered ethanol (0 or 1g/kg) prior to the NOR test. Analysis of p-ERK1/2 IR showed that untreated adolescent mice had significantly higher levels of p-ERK1/2 IR in the nucleus accumbens shell, basolateral amygdala (BLA), central amygdala (CeA), and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) as compared to adults. Ethanol (1g/kg) selectively reduced p-ERK1/2 IR in the dentate gyrus and increased p-ERK1/2 IR in the BLA only in adolescent mice. Ethanol (3g/kg) produced the same effects on p-ERK1/2 IR in both age groups with increases in CeA and mPFC, but a decrease in the dentate gyrus, as compared to age-matched saline controls. Pretreatment with ethanol (1g/kg) disrupted performance on the NOR test specifically in adolescents, which corresponds with the ethanol-induced inhibition of p-ERK1/2 IR in the hippocampus. These data show that adolescent mice have differential expression of basal p-ERK1/2 IR in mesocorticolimbic brain regions. Acute ethanol produces a unique set of changes in ERK1/2 phosphorylation in the adolescent brain that are associated with disruption of hippocampal-dependent memory acquisition.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2012.02.010DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3310330PMC
April 2012

Adolescent C57BL/6J mice show elevated alcohol intake, but reduced taste aversion, as compared to adult mice: a potential behavioral mechanism for binge drinking.

Alcohol Clin Exp Res 2011 Oct 16;35(10):1842-51. Epub 2011 May 16.

Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, School of Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7178, USA.

Background: Binge alcohol drinking during adolescence is a serious health problem that may increase future risk of an alcohol use disorder. Although there are several different procedures by which to preclinically model binge-like alcohol intake, limited-access procedures offer the advantage of achieving high voluntary alcohol intake and pharmacologically relevant blood alcohol concentrations (BACs). Therefore, in the current study, developmental differences in binge-like alcohol drinking using a limited-access cycling procedure were examined. In addition, as alcohol drinking has been negatively correlated with sensitivity to the aversive properties of alcohol, we examined developmental differences in sensitivity to an alcohol-induced conditioned taste aversion (CTA).

Methods: Binge-like alcohol consumption was investigated in adolescent (4 weeks) and adult (10 weeks) male C57BL/6J mice for 2 to 4 h/d for 16 days. Developmental differences in sensitivity to an alcohol-induced CTA were examined in adolescent and adult mice, with saline or alcohol (3 or 4 g/kg) repeatedly paired with the intake of a novel tastant (NaCl).

Results: Adolescent mice showed a significant increase in alcohol intake as compared to adults, with adolescents achieving higher BACs and increasing alcohol consumption over successive cycles of the binge procedure. Conversely, adolescent mice exhibited a dose-dependent reduction in sensitivity to the aversive properties of alcohol, as compared to adult mice, with adolescent mice failing to develop a CTA to 3 g/kg alcohol. Finally, extinction of an alcohol CTA was observed following conditioning with a higher dose of alcohol in adolescent, versus adult, mice.

Conclusions: These results indicate that adolescent mice consume more alcohol, per kilogram body weight, than adults in a binge-like model of alcohol drinking and demonstrate a blunted sensitivity to the conditioned aversive effects of alcohol. Overall, this supports a behavioral framework by which heightened binge alcohol intake during adolescence occurs, in part, via a reduced sensitivity to the aversive properties of alcohol.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1530-0277.2011.01528.xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3158303PMC
October 2011

CRF-1 antagonist and CRF-2 agonist decrease binge-like ethanol drinking in C57BL/6J mice independent of the HPA axis.

Neuropsychopharmacology 2010 May 3;35(6):1241-52. Epub 2010 Feb 3.

Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA.

Recent evidence suggests that corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptor (CRFR) signaling is involved in modulating binge-like ethanol consumption in C57BL/6J mice. In this report, a series of experiments were performed to further characterize the role of CRFR signaling in binge-like ethanol consumption. The role of central CRFR signaling was assessed with intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) infusion of the nonselective CRFR antagonist, alpha-helical CRF(9-41) (0, 1, 5, 10 microg/1 microl). The contribution of central CRF type 2 receptor (CRF(2)R) signaling was assessed with i.c.v. infusion of the selective CRF(2)R agonist, urocortin (Ucn) 3 (0, 0.05, 0.1, or 0.5 microg/1 microl). The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis was assessed by pretreating mice with intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of (1) the corticosterone synthesis inhibitor, metyrapone (0, 50, 100, 150 mg/kg) or (2) the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist, mifepristone (0, 25, 50 mg/kg), and (3) by using radioimmunoassay to determine whether binge-like ethanol intake influenced plasma corticosterone levels. Finally, we determined whether the ability of the CRF(1)R antagonist, CP-154,526 (CP; 0, 10, 15 mg/kg, i.p.), to blunt binge-like drinking required normal HPA axis signaling by comparing the effectiveness of CP in adrenalectomized (ADX) and normal mice. Results showed that i.c.v. infusion of a 1 microg dose of alpha-helical CRF(9-41) significantly attenuated binge-like ethanol consumption relative to vehicle treatment, and i.c.v. infusion of Ucn 3 dose-dependently blunted binge-like drinking. On the other hand, metyrapone nonselectively reduced both ethanol and sucrose consumption, mifepristone did not alter ethanol drinking, and binge-like drinking did not correlate with plasma corticosterone levels. Finally, i.p. injection of CP significantly attenuated binge-like ethanol intake in both ADX and normal mice. Together, these results suggest that binge-like ethanol intake in C57BL/6J mice is modulated by CRF(1)R and CRF(2)R signaling, such that blockade of CRF(1)R or activation of CRF(2)R effectively reduces excessive ethanol intake. Furthermore, normal HPA axis signaling is not necessary to achieve binge-like drinking behavior.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/npp.2009.209DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2927867PMC
May 2010

Interoceptive effects of alcohol require mGlu5 receptor activity in the nucleus accumbens.

J Neurosci 2009 Jul;29(30):9582-91

Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.

The interoceptive effects of alcohol are major determinants of addiction liability. Metabotropic glutamate (mGlu) receptors are widely expressed in striatal circuits known to modulate drug-seeking. Given that the interoceptive effects of drugs can be important determinants of abuse liability, we hypothesized that striatal mGlu receptors modulate the interoceptive effects of alcohol. Using drug discrimination learning, rats were trained to discriminate alcohol (1 g/kg, i.g.) versus water. We found that systemic antagonism of metabotropic glutamate subtype 5 (mGlu5) receptors [10 mg/kg 2-methyl-6-(phenylethynyl)pyridine (MPEP) and 3 mg/kg 3-((2-methyl-1,3-thiazol-4-yl)ethynyl)pyridine], but not mGlu1 receptors ([0.3-3 mg/kg JNJ16259685) (3,4-dihydro-2H-pyrano[2,3]beta-quinolin-7-yl)(cis-4-methoxycyclohexyl) methanone)], inhibited the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol. Furthermore, mGlu5 receptor antagonism (10 mg/kg MPEP) significantly inhibited neuronal activity in the nucleus accumbens core as levels of the transcription factor c-Fos were significantly reduced. Accordingly, targeted inhibition of mGlu5 receptors (20 microg of MPEP) in the nucleus accumbens core blunted the discriminative stimulus effects of alcohol (1 g/kg). Anatomical specificity was confirmed by the lack of effect of inhibition of mGlu5 receptors (10-30 microg of MPEP) in the dorsomedial caudate-putamen and the similar cytological expression patterns and relative density of mGlu5 receptors between the brain regions. Functional involvement of intra-accumbens mGlu5 receptors was confirmed as activation of mGlu5 receptors [10 microg of (RS)-2-amino-2-(2-chloro-5-hydroxyphenyl)acetic acid sodium salt] enhanced the discriminative stimulus effects of a low alcohol dose (0.5 g/kg), and mGlu5 receptor inhibition (20 microg of MPEP) prevented the agonist-induced enhancement. These results show that mGlu5 receptor activity in the nucleus accumbens is required for the expression of the interoceptive effects of alcohol.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2366-09.2009DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845172PMC
July 2009

Cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior is associated with increased ERK1/2 phosphorylation in specific limbic brain regions: blockade by the mGluR5 antagonist MPEP.

Neuropharmacology 2008 Sep 4;55(4):546-54. Epub 2008 Jul 4.

Department of Psychiatry, Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Thurston-Bowles Building; CB #7178, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.

Relapse to alcohol use after periods of abstinence is a hallmark behavioral pathology of alcoholism and a major clinical problem. Emerging evidence indicates that metabotropic glutamate receptor 5 (mGluR5) antagonists attenuate relapse to alcohol-seeking behavior but the molecular mechanisms of this potential therapeutic effect remain unexplored. The extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) pathway is downstream of mGluR5 and has been implicated in addiction. We sought to determine if cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior, and its reduction by an mGluR5 antagonist, is associated with changes in ERK1/2 activation in reward-related limbic brain regions. Selectively-bred alcohol-preferring (P) rats were trained to lever press on a concurrent schedule of alcohol (15% v/v) vs. water reinforcement. Following 9 days of extinction, rats were given an additional extinction trial or injected with the mGluR5 antagonist MPEP (0, 1, 3, or 10mg/kg) and tested for cue-induced reinstatement. Brains were removed 90-min later from the rats in the extinction and MPEP (0 or 10mg/kg) conditions for analysis of p-ERK1/2, total ERK1/2, and p-ERK5 immunoreactivity (IR). Cue-induced reinstatement of alcohol-seeking behavior was associated with a three to five-fold increase in p-ERK1/2 IR in the basolateral amygdala and nucleus accumbens shell. MPEP administration blocked both the relapse-like behavior and increase in p-ERK1/2 IR. p-ERK1/2 IR in the central amygdala and NAcb core was dissociated with the relapse-like behavior and the pharmacological effect of mGluR5 blockade. No changes in total ERK or p-ERK5 were observed. These results suggest that exposure to cues previously associated with alcohol self-administration is sufficient to produce concomitant increases in relapse-like behavior and ERK1/2 activation in specific limbic brain regions. Pharmacological compounds, such as mGluR5 antagonists, that reduce cue-induced ERK1/2 activation may be useful for treatment of relapse in alcoholics that is triggered by exposure to environmental events.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2008.06.057DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2613007PMC
September 2008
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