Effects of Alcohol on Memory

Hey everyone,


My name is Arati Pudasaini. I am a rising junior at The College, majoring in Neuroscience.  This summer I will be working on a project with Dr. Hunt from the Psychology Department regarding the effects of hippocampus-dependent memory in rats exposed to alcohol on postnatal days 4-9.

Individuals that have been exposed to alcohol prenatally (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) exhibit a number of impairments, such as low IQ and learning and memory problems. Difficulties with certain types of memory may persist into adulthood. The memory problems observed seem to be in terms of declarative memory (explicit recall of information relating to time, place, events and faces). Declarative memory is believed to require a brain structure called the hippocampus, and fetal alcohol exposure produces a number of changes in hippocampal function.

The postnatal period of rat development (4-9 days) corresponds to the third trimester of human pregnancy and is defined by major developmental changes in the brain. Rats given alcohol during this time are known to be impaired in many different kinds of declarative memory tasks. The task that we have been using is called trace conditioning which requires the brain region called hippocampus. From the previous researches done in the lab, it has been found that rats exposed to alcohol on such postnatal days show very poor learning in trace conditioning during adolescence (30-35 days for the rats).This is because the early exposure affects the hippocampus. My summer project will look at whether the trace conditioning deficit persists into adulthood (75-80 days for the rats) and not just adolescence, because declarative memory impairments are seen in fetal alcohol syndrome individuals even at age 30-40 years.

Since these alcohol exposed animals need to be tested whey they are 75-80 days old (adulthood in rats) ,  we have already started preparing the rat model by exposing the postnatal rats to alcohol (through intubation) so that they will be old enough to train and test in June/July.   

If, as expected, these animals learn poorly in the test conditioning procedure during their adulthood, it would mean that the hippocampus is functioning abnormal in them, and thus will provide us with a conclusion that the effects on hippocampus still persists.I believe the result of this project will contribute to a better understanding regarding psychological development of individuals. Through the consequences and information from these trace intervals; we could develop an insight for the therapeutic treatments to lessen the declarative memory impairments.  Furthermore, we could use the information from the study of this animal model to get a better understanding about proper development of individuals, and thus raise concerns among people about even mild alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

I will keep you guys updated on my project. So far, I have liked working with the tiny young rats in the basement of ISC, I hope it applies the same with the adult rats. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to being in Williamsburg this summer!


  1. Paul Lendway says:

    Hey Arati,

    What a compelling research topic! It’d be great if you could elaborate on trace conditioning. In what way does this assess declarative memory? Good luck with your project!


  2. Hey Paul,
    I’ve recently created a separate post about trace conditioning.I hope it answers your question. Thanks!