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Addiction Biology


Adolescent alcohol use is a strong predictor for the subsequent development of alcohol use disorders later in life. Additionally, adolescence is a critical period for the onset of affective disorders, which can contribute to problematic drinking behaviours and relapse, particularly in females. Previous studies from our laboratory have shown that exposure to adolescent intermittent ethanol (AIE) vapour alters glutamatergic transmission in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) and, when combined with adult stress, elicits sex-specific changes in glutamatergic plasticity and negative affect-like behaviours in mice. Building on these findings, the current work investigated whether BNST stimulation could substitute for stress exposure to increase the latency to consume a palatable food in a novel context (hyponeophagia) and promote social avoidance in adult mice with AIE history. Given the dense connections between the BNST and the parabrachial nucleus (PBN), a region involved in mediating threat assessment and feeding behaviours, we hypothesized that increased negative affect-like behaviours would be associated with PBN activation. Our results revealed that the chemogenetic stimulation of the dorsolateral BNST induced hyponeophagia in females with AIE history, but not in female controls or males of either group. Social interaction remained unaffected in both sexes. Notably, this behavioural phenotype was associated with higher activation of calcitonin gene-related peptide and dynorphin cells in the PBN. These findings provide new insights into the neurobiological mechanisms underlying the development of negative affect in females and highlight the potential involvement of the BNST-PBN circuitry in regulating emotional responses to alcohol-related stimuli.